Our Take

Mock elections can be a valuable tool in testing new election processes and building public trust, Pima County Elections Director Constance Hargrove told ASD’s David Levine on the latest episode of Ballots & Bagels

The Taiwan Policy Act can give Taiwan a major boost, but congressional leaders need to rethink several provisions to make sure they prioritize substantive assistance before symbolism, Co-Director Zack Cooper and Richard L. Armitage write in War on the Rocks

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Ukraine’s Independence Day: Some Kremlin-linked accounts claimed that Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day by committing human rights abuses, while others insisted that Ukraine hasn’t been independent since a 2014 coup established external control of the country. 
  • Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: Russian propagandists accused Ukraine of “nuclear terrorism” as fighting continued around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, and they argued Western countries and media were complicit in “nuclear blackmail.” 
  • Gas: State media highlighted high gas prices in Europe, suggested a “single mother shivering in the cold with her baby” would rather have affordable gas than help Ukraine’s war effort, and said Russia’s economy wouldn’t be hurt if Moscow decided to withhold gas from Europe for a year. 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives last week: 

  • Wildfires: “Chongqing,” “drought,” and “firefighters” were among the top ten most frequent key phrases used by Chinese state-backed accounts last week as diplomats played to Chinese patriotism and exalted the bravery of those fighting the wildfires in the southwestern city. 
  • Flooding in Pakistan: While some diplomats extended their sympathies to China’s “Pakistani brothers,” the majority of tweets from Chinese officials and state media personalities promoted Beijing’s aid to the country.
  • Taiwan: The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally protested US Senator Marsha Blackburn’s visit to the island, and state media and diplomats called her “a true fool,” said she was “losing her mind,” and accused her of honoring a “corrupted dictator”; however, these insults did not measure up to Chinese accounts’ continued focus on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose name was mentioned in more than 70 tweets last week.

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Meta, Twitter take down pro-US influence campaign: Meta and Twitter dismantled an influence operation that pushed US foreign policy interests abroad by using fake online personas and posing as news outlets, according to a new report from the Stanford Internet Observatory and Graphika. Deputy Director David Salvo said, “To my mind, what’s most notable about the findings on the pro-US influence campaign is that it was largely ineffective. Let’s suppose American actors, official or otherwise, were indeed behind these inauthentic accounts. They emulated tactics we consistently decry when authoritarian regimes deploy them, and to minimal effect. There’s little point in losing the moral high ground by engaging in inauthentic behavior on social media platforms when there are more effective ways for western actors to get their messages and narratives out to foreign audiences.” 

Taiwan tests new strategies to combat disinfo: Taiwanese government agencies are collaborating with a coalition of nonprofit fact-checking groups and tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and messaging app Line, to defend against disinformation campaigns, mostly from China, targeting the island. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “As we’ve seen with Baltic states like Estonia on the front lines of Russian disinformation, necessity is the mother of invention when it comes to building robust systems to resist authoritarian digital propaganda. Taiwan has been a leader in digital democracy. We would do well to learn from and adopt this fast-acting, decentralized approach.”

In Case You Missed It   

  • Six months into Russia’s war in Ukraine, many US states have yet to cut their financial ties with Russia despite pledges to do so, the AP found
  • The Cyberspace Administration of China recently forced major internet companies, including ByteDance, Tencent, and Alibaba, to disclose information on their core algorithms, marking the first regulatory effort to rein in content amplified on platforms.
  • Thirty-three state legislatures have introduced 244 bills that would “increase the risk of election subversion,” 24 of which have already become law, according to a recent States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy report.
  • Russia has laid the groundwork for closer cooperation with Iran to circumvent international sanctions on Russian crude oil should the Iran Nuclear Deal come back into force.
  • Facebook granted content-moderation exemptions to politicians 13 times during a one-year period because the violating content was deemed newsworthy.
  • Montenegro blamed Russian state-linked hackers for a cyberattack that targeted government institutions and disrupted several critical infrastructure organizations, including power stations.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“Democratic values give the free world a critical advantage in what will likely be another decades-long confrontation with Russia and China, just as they did in the Cold War.” 

  • Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and President of the International Republican Institute Daniel Twinning wrote in Foreign Affairs’ September/October issue.

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