Our Take

China’s comprehensive sanctions regime against Lithuania underlines the grave need for Europe to bolster its resilience to economic coercion—but the EU’s new Anti-Coercion Instrument won’t be enough, China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros and Program Assistant Krystyna Sikora argue in a new report. 

US localities should consider creating locally-based task forces to respond to threats against election workers and their equipment, Madison, Wisconsin City Attorney Michael Haas told ASD Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine on the latest episode of Ballots & Bagels.

To prevent China’s party-state from deepening its hold on the digital information ecosystems of the Global South, the United States and like-minded democracies need to offer viable digital democratic alternatives, China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros and Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg write in The Diplomat. 

Follow us on Twitter for more quick takes @SecureDemocracy.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: Kremlin-linked accounts claimed that Ukraine and its “US handlers” were preparing to frame Moscow for an attack on the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, which Russia’s Defense Ministry warned would spread radioactive material over much of Europe.
  • Daria Dugina: After a car bomb killed Daria Dugina, the daughter of an influential Russian ultranationalist, Moscow-backed messengers blamed a Ukrainian special services contractor and claimed that Kyiv had “declared terror against Russian intellectuals.”
  • Visa restrictions: State media and diplomats railed against several European countries that put in place visa restrictions for Russian nationals, calling those measures “pure racism and Nazism.”

Chinese diplomats and state media highlighted three narratives last week:

  • Taiwan: Weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, Beijing-linked accounts continued to attack her trip as US interference in Chinese domestic affairs and “US hypocrisy at its best,” while also amplifying Russia’s continued criticism of the visit.  
  • US criticism: Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian tweeted a meme that implied 9/11 was an inside job as other Chinese propagandists criticized the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of the departure. 
  • African loan forgiveness: Chinese diplomats touted Beijing’s decision to cancel 23 loans for 17 African countries, and they used the move to distinguish China’s role in the world from US “imperialism.” 

Read the full report here. 

News and Commentary

Former Twitter security chief criticizes platform cyber and disinfo policies: Twitter’s major security lapses have made the platform vulnerable to foreign hacking, disinformation and spying campaigns, and data breaches, according to a whistleblower disclosure from former head of security Peiter “Mudge” Zatko. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar said, “The allegations in this whistleblower complaint show Twitter’s push for growth to be a privacy and national security threat. While executives focused on luring more users to the platform, flawed security practices could’ve impacted current users, which include heads of state and dissidents. Reports that surfaced with this complaint also show Twitter’s counter-disinformation team to be unorganized, under-resourced, and ineffective. These are worrying allegations as the 2022 midterms get closer.”

Poll finds “threats to democracy” top issue for US voters: US voters ranked “threats to democracy” as the top issue facing the country, putting it above “cost of living” in an NBC News poll. Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson said, “Traditionally, pocketbook issues are a driving factor for voters, and more abstract concepts like democracy take a backseat. This new NBC poll turns conventional wisdom on its head and underscores this critical stage for US democracy. It’s a harbinger of more serious problems if work is not done to rebuild trust in our institutions, elections, leaders, and each other.” 

China attacks US CHIPS Act: China criticized the United States’ CHIPS and Science Act, which bolsters US semiconductor manufacturing to counter China’s dominance in the field, for being “discriminatory” and pledged forceful measures to safeguard its rights. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch, This response invoking ‘fair market principles’ and the WTO is ironic, to say the least. Beijing has built key technology industries explicitly by bucking open market competition and creating protected space for Chinese companies. We know that many of these chips end up supporting the PRC military or its techno-surveillance state, and our technology industries shouldn’t be enablers.”

In Case You Missed It   

  • Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok unveiled strategies to defend the US midterms from disruptive election-related content, including plans to direct users to reliable information, fact check posts, and issue warning labels on false or misleading content. 
  • Since 2020, the United States has approved almost all sensitive technology exports, including semiconductors and AI technology, to China despite national security concerns. 
  • Russian gas giant Gazprom will shut down Nord Stream 1 for three days of maintenance, raising economic pressure on Germany and other European countries reliant on Russian energy.
  • The Solomon Islands will take out a loan from a Chinese state-owned bank as part of a $100 million deal with Huawei to build more than 100 mobile phone towers.
  • County elections administrators in Gillespie County, Texas resigned from their positions, citing increasing threats fueled by election misinformation. 
  • Estonia announced it repelled the most extensive Russian-linked cyberattacks since 2007, shortly after removing Soviet monuments in a majority ethnic Russian region of the country. 

ASD in the News

Election Deniers Vying for Political Power in 2022 Midterm Elections. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Newsy 

States Are Bracing for Social Media-Enabled Election Violence. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Bloomberg

Rightwing sheriffs’ groups ramp up drives to monitor US midterm elections. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in The Guardian 

Pinal County’s election meltdown was years in the making. Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson quoted in AZ Mirror 

Urgent action on mail-in ballots sought to avoid Maryland general election delays. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Herald-Mail

Observations on the CCP’s Military Exercises and Taiwan-US-China Relations. China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros interviewed on Radio Taiwan International

“Incubatore di disinformazione”. L’accusa a TikTok prima del voto (Disinformation Incubator”The accusation against TikTok before the vote). Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman quoted in Formiche

Quote of the Week

“The way we get at rectifying this worry about our democracy is by demonstrating that democracy can work.”

  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) said on Andrea Mitchell Reports on August 22, 2022.

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