Milwaukee friends: Join ASD’s Bret Schafer on Thursday, September 22, at 7:00 p.m. CDT for a conversation in partnership with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and University of Milwaukee Institute of World Affairs on how mis- and disinformation are shaping US elections. Learn more and register here.

Our Take

Paper-based voting systems, like the one in place in Coffee County, Georgia, allow states to verify their vote counts, meaning voters can trust the results even when people attempt to tamper with those systems, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine told Newsy.

The Department of Justice Election Threats Task Force should clarify when a threat against an election official is prosecutable, propose ideas to improve election workers’ safety, and emphasize that the DOJ prioritizes the security of election workers, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine and Grace Gordon write in Dallas Morning News. 

Russia’s messengers are pushing four main narratives about Moldova: Ukraine and the West want to drag Moldova into a conflict; Transnistria is like the Donbas; Romania is trying to reunify with or absorb Moldova; and Moldova is a corrupt, anti-Russia Western pawn, Rachel Clavette writes on ASD’s Interference Matters blog

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: 

  • Gas: Russia-linked accounts relayed the Kremlin’s statement that it would not fully resume gas supplies to Europe until Western sanctions against Moscow were lifted, and those accounts warned that energy shortages would cause social unrest, death, and discomfort throughout Europe this winter.
  • Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: Russian state media accused Kyiv of plotting a “terrorist attack” on the nuclear power station, said that “British special services controlled” a Ukrainian attempt to storm the plant, and blamed Ukraine for delaying international inspectors who visited the station.
  • Liz Truss: After Truss became the UK prime minister, Kremlin-affiliated accounts attacked her competency, lifted up critical social media commentary to frame her as unpopular, and suggested the United States facilitated her political rise.  

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

  • UN’s Xinjiang report: “Xinjiang” was the most used key phrase and hashtag by Chinese diplomats and state media on Twitter as they responded to a UN report on China’s possible crimes against humanity in the region by attacking the UN’s legitimacy, pushing fake quotes by US diplomats, and claiming their policies in Xinjiang are supported by “nearly 100 countries.”
  • US criticism: Beijing-linked accounts relayed the idea that the United States was on the brink of a civil war, highlighted instances of US police violence, and criticized US military interventions around the world. 

Read the full report here

News and Commentary

Sweden prepares for interference ahead of election: Sweden is on “high alert” for potential foreign interference in its September 11 election after the country’s Psychological Defence Agency observed an uptick in activity from foreign actors following the country’s application to join NATO. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar said, It wouldn’t be surprising to see Moscow use its online arsenal of hackers, trolls, bots, and propagandists to attempt to disrupt Sweden’s election. Sweden’s Psychological Defence Agency, however, is built to spot and counter foreign disinformation. The upcoming election could be a test, but Sweden has plans in place to pass it.”

USAID unveils “dekleptification” guide: The US Agency for International Development released its Dekleptification Guide, which provides a roadmap to assist countries seeking to transition from kleptocracy to democracy. Deputy Director David Salvo said, “It is extremely encouraging to see USAID put anti-kleptocracy and anti-corruption efforts at the forefront of their mission. This report offers insightful case studies that demonstrate how kleptocratic networks can permeate all layers of societygovernment, industry, civil society, mediato derail the emergence or strengthening of democratic institutions. Fortunately, the report also provides numerous success stories and a detailed playbook for USAID and its donor partners to support democratic actors in pushing back against kleptocracy, cronyism, and autocracy. Ultimately, the US government’s efforts to combat these threats abroad have national security implications, as the malign actors highlighted in this report have a vested interest in undermining governments, institutions, and societies in the United States and other established democracies.”

Thousands protest soaring energy prices in Prague: An estimated 70,000 people protested soaring energy prices in Prague amid continued energy turmoil in Europe as Russia indefinitely cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and the G7 agreed to cap the price of Russian oil. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas said, The mix of surging inflation and spiking energy prices risks turning protests like this into a new, explosive ‘normal’ for many European countries, increasing national competition and sowing divisions within the European Union. This is why concerted and concrete European actions aimed at bringing energy prices down in a spirit of intra-EU solidarity are urgently needed, before winter sets in and all policy dilemmas become much harder.”

In Case You Missed It  

  • Sixty percent of US voters will have candidates who support false claims that the 2020 election was stolen on the ballot during the midterm election, FiveThirtyEight found
  • Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest mobile phone network, has successfully maintained control of its infrastructureand information flows within the countrydespite a barrage of cyber and physical attacks from Russia.
  • Albania cut diplomatic ties with Iran in retaliation for a major cyberattack in July that shut down various Albanian government digital services and websites. 
  • A Russian district court revoked the print media license of Novaya Gazeta, one of the country’s last remaining independent media outlets, effectively banning it from operating within Russia.
  • The EU will require manufacturers of “internet of things” products to meet basic cyber safety requirements or face heavy fines in an attempt to reduce the risk of cyberattacks. 
  • The United States banned US tech firms from using funding from the US CHIPS and Science Act to develop “advanced technology” in China for ten years. 

ASD in the News

Election ’22: America at a Crossroad. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Newsy 

Google’s Plan to Stare Down Fake News on Ukrainian Refugees. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar quoted in Bloomberg

Information Wars. Director Laura Thornton on a panel at the Tbilisi International Conference 2022 – Slava Ukraini

China and Tech in the Global South. China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros, Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg, and Research Analyst Etienne Soula interviewed on China in the Americas 

Europe ‘losing’ narrative battle to Russia-China anti-Western message. Research Analyst Etienne Soula quoted in South China Morning Post

Election mistakes were made, but Pima County is working to fix them. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on KOLD News 13

Die gefährlichste Region der Welt (The most dangerous region in the world). China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros wrote in Internationale Politik

America should honor our election workers this Labor Day. ASD research cited in Chicago Sun Times

Podcast: Key takeaways from the Wisconsin primaries with Madison City Attorney Michael Haas. Ballots & Bagels shared in The Fulcrum 

Not Their Plane to Land: Generals Thwarting the Chain of Command? Co-Director Zack Cooper hosts War on the Rocks’ Net Assessment 

მთავრობა უნდა შეიცვალოს მხოლოდ დემოკრატიული გზით (The government should be changed only through democratic means). Director Laura Thornton interviewed on TV Pirveli 

Quote of the Week

“We urge rights-respecting democracies to wake up to the existential threat of information ecosystems being distorted by a Big Tech business model fixated on harvesting people’s data and attention, even as it undermines serious journalism and polarises debate in society and political life.”

  • 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa wrote in a ten-point technology action plan for how democracies can address the information crisis on September 2, 2022.

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