Tomorrow is the last day of the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum. Tune into Brussels Forum here starting at 9:00am CET/3:00am ET and watch past panels here.

The Brussels Forum ASD-led panel “Rebuilding Trust in our Elections” featured Director Laura Thornton, International IDEA’s Therese Pearce Laanela, former US congressman Will Hurd, and Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty President Jamie Fly. Watch it here.

Our Takes

China is winning the information contest in Southeast Asia and elsewhere with their no governance strings attached approach to international development, Director Laura Thornton said during a discussion at Brussels Forum with Foreign Minister of Taiwan Joseph Wu, Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). 

In the struggle between autocracy and democracy, the free flow of factual information is critical in preventing democratic erosion, Director Laura Thornton writes in the Bush Institute’s quarterly publication The Catalyst. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main topics last week: 

  • EU Enlargement: Russian propagandists reacted to Ukraine and Moldova earning EU candidate status by arguing that the bloc was building a war-like coalition against Russia similar to the one Hitler built, while at the same time downplaying Ukraine’s chance of becoming an EU member state and highlighting rifts within Europe.
  • G7: Russian-affiliated accounts attacked the G7 in response to this week’s summit, arguing the G7 was “directly responsible” for the war in Ukraine and the reason for global inflation
  • Roe v. Wade: Russian state-backed media emphasized the divisiveness of the ruling, playing up extreme reactions from pro-choice activists and celebrations by right-wing figures, including former president Donald Trump

Chinese diplomats and state media highlighted three narratives last week: 

  • United States: Chinese diplomats continued to ridicule US inflation rates and NATO, and used variations of the slogan “The US bombs, and China builds” to paint the West as a destructive partner and China a constructive one. 
  • Roe v. Wade: “Supreme Court” and “abortion” registered in the top three popular key phrases in tweets mentioning the United States with and Chinese government accounts criticisizing the United States for protecting unborn children but tolerating the shooting of children in schools. 
  • BRICS: #BRICS2022 registered as the top hashtag and key phrase among Beijing-linked Twitter accounts as they suggested that BRICS countries “effectively represent” the international community, are supportive of participants’ “core interests,” and are well positioned to end the world’s economic slump.

Read the full report here

News and Commentary

Meta shifts priorities away from election disinformation: As US midterms approach, Meta signaled it was shifting priorities away from elections by downsizing Facebook’s election team from more than 300 to roughly 60 employees and reportedly making moves to shut down CrowdTangle, a tool researchers use to track the viral spread of false and misleading content. Head of the Information Manipulation Team Bret Schafer said, “​​Given the extraordinarily contentious political environment, ongoing efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election, and increasing threats targeting election administrators, this would seem to be a time to be ramping up, rather than drawing back, efforts to protect elections. Perhaps most concerning is the unclear future of CrowdTangle, which has served as a vital tool for outside researchers to track the spread of potentially problematic narratives on Facebook. Shutting it down would cripple the ability of researchers to identify information threats at an absolutely critical time.”

Jan. 6 committee probes Trump’s DOJ pressure campaign: Former president Donald Trump mounted an intense pressure campaign on Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to legitimize baseless election fraud allegations, which culminated in officials threatening to resign en masse to stop the installation of a loyalist as acting secretary, witnesses revealed during the fifth hearing of the January 6th Committee. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine told the Dispatch, “As the Jan. 6 Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) recently noted, the January 6th hearings are a reminder that our democratic processes and institutions do not defend themselvesindividuals do. Upcoming hearings are likely to continue underscoring the important roles that honorable individuals must play if the United States is to preserve its democracy and prevent a downward spiral into autocracy. We came too close to crossing this Rubicon on January 6th.”

US lawmakers introduce bill barring US data exports to high-risk countries: On June 23, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) unveiled bipartisan legislation that would ban exports of sensitive US personal data to countries, including China, that pose national security risks. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “Although data is a foundational input to artificial intelligence systems that are driving current and future competitiveness, the US and its democratic partners have yet to articulate how we are gaining the data advantage and guarding against misuse. Using both policy and innovation tools to ensure that the sensitive personal data of Americans cannot be misused and weaponized by authoritarian actors is an essential part of that strategy. And as democratic actors contemplate and re-envision export controls in the emerging technology era, how data is produced and used must be part of that picture.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The United States and G7 allies will invest $600 billion into infrastructure projects in developing countries to counter autocracies and compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Pro-Russian hacktivist group Killnet conducted a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks targeting Lithuanian public services in retaliation for Vilnius’ decision to halt transport of EU-sanctioned Russian goods to Kaliningrad.
  • Iran formally applied to join BRICS, a group of emerging economies, including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, that are cast as an alternative to Western markets.
  • The DOJ Elections Threats Task Force prosecuted only three out of the more than 1,000 cases of threats to election workers it has evaluated since its establishment last year.
  • The House Armed Services Committee included the ENABLERS Act—a bill that would require some white collar professionals to vet clients attempting to move money and assets in the US financial system—in the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • Microsoft launched an effort to counter the spread of Russian propaganda on the war in Ukraine and covid-19 through the use of more data, new analytics, and additional staff. 

ASD in the News

Election denier Tina Peters is on the ballot today. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in The Washington Post 

New Mexico election drama has roots in wider county movement. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in AP

Trade unionists’ protest against NATO? A Chinese daily publishes a fake video. ASD’s research mentioned in Forsal.PL

Quote of the Week

“A Marshall Plan [for Ukraine] is an instrument to make Ukraine a successful story for everyone, a successful story for democracy.” 

Chairwoman of Democracy in Action Conference Hanna Hopko said during a panel at GMF’s Brussels Forum on June 27, 2022.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.