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Our Take

Heading into the midterms, nearly 30 percent of major party Senate candidates and one-fifth of House candidates have TikTok accounts, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman and Research Trainee Nash Miller find in a new report. But TikTok’s entry into the US political sphere opens Americans up to potential disinformation and censorship by the Chinese-owned company. 

Maricopa County, Arizona, has become a focal point for Americans’ crisis of trust in democratic elections, Director Laura Thornton writes in the Daily Beast. 

Democratic and Republican candidates regularly promote their accounts on different social media platformswith Republicans favoring GETTR, Truth Social, and Rumble, and Democrats turning to TikTokfurther fracturing the online information space, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer finds in the latest Midterm Monitor report

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • Putin’s speech: “Putin” was the most tweeted key word by Kremlin-linked accounts after the Russian president gave a speech in which he claimed the West was using Ukraine as a “battering ram” against Russia, said the world faced its most dangerous decade since WWII, and complained about cancel culture.
  • Grain deal: Moscow-affiliated accounts argued that Ukrainian “terrorists, controlled by British special forces” violated a UN-brokered deal to ship grain through the Black Sea by attacking one of Russia’s fleets, with some propagandists insisting that the United Kingdom had created “a formal pretext for war” with Russia.
  • Lula: After Lula da Silva won Brazil’s presidential election, Kremlin-linked accounts showed crowds cheering for him, shared quotes from his victory speech, highlighted world leaders sending congratulations, and said he would support Brazil’s economic relationship with Russia and would not join the West’s defense of Ukraine. 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • Elon Musk: Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts asked whether Musk would reinstate banned accounts and questioned whether Twitter will stop labeling Chinese state media. 
  • Russia: Beijing-linked accounts commemorated the 65th anniversary of Russo-Chinese ties, relayed Kremlin accusations of British involvement in the Nord Stream explosions, and promoted a pro-Russian analyst’s thoughts on the Ukraine grain deal. 
  • Brazilian elections: China-affiliated accounts congratulated President-elect Lula, with one diplomatic tweet receiving more than 114,000 likes, and they expressed hope that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would achieve a similar victory in the United States in 2024. 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Feds warn of conspiracy-driven violence ahead of midterms: On Friday, multiple government agencies, including the FBI and DHS, circulated a joint bulletin warning that election conspiracies have heightened the threat of domestic violent extremists targeting candidates, election workers, and party officials ahead of the midterm election. Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson told the Dispatch, An assessment like this serves two purposes. First, it signals to federal, state, and local leaders and the public to be on alert and take extra precautions before, during, and after Election Day. Second, it’s a warning to potential bad actors that law enforcement is taking threats against election workers and public officials seriously and stands ready to respond. At a time of increased threats against election workers and public officials and politically-inspired violence, law enforcement’s collaboration with and support of those administering elections has never been more important.”  

Germany’s Scholz to meet with Xi on trip to China: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make an inaugural trip to China on Friday accompanied by a delegation of business executives during which he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, stoking concerns that Germany risks becoming economically dependent on China. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas said,Either by design or by accident, this difficult, delicate trip serves to undercut efforts to create a concerted European approach to Beijing. Going to China for business, having rejected President Macron’s proposal for a joint visit that would show unity, and only days after the Chinese Communist Party consolidated its vision of tighter control over society and the economy at its 20th National Congress, is a high-risk move with questionable added value for the German economy. Crucially, though, this trip and its timing also reveal a degree of attachment to the old policy recipe of business prioritization that simply does not recognize how much European approaches and politics towards China have changed over the past few years.”

Governments investigate global network of Chinese “police stations”: Officials in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands are investigating allegations of clandestine Chinese “police stations” amid reports that China is operating a global network to target overseas dissidents. China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros said,These secret police stations reinforce that the most vulnerable targets of China’s malign influence and foreign interference efforts are ethnic Chinese and dissidents living abroad who wish to exercise their freedom of speech to criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Over the last year, many documented instances of China intimidating and harassing Chinese dissidents overseas have come to light. The United States and its allies must work together to each pass legislation that pushes back against these secret police stations and protects ethnic Chinese and overseas dissidents targeted by the extrajudicial efforts of the CCP.”

In Case You Missed It  

  • Twitter disrupted three China-based influence operations that included nearly 2,000 accounts that sought stoke division in the run-up to the midterms by amplifying polarizing topics. 
  • Meta and TikTok’s algorithms directed millions of Brazilians toward content and groups pushing false claims about the integrity of Brazil’s presidential election or openly calling for a military coup.
  • More than 100 election jurisdictions are waiting on federal help to ensure the digital security of their election systems less than a week before the midterms.  
  • Social media accounts linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency are using political cartoons and memes to promote racist and inflammatory talking points and influence battle ground states in the US midterms. 
  • Twitter froze some employees’ access to internal content moderation tools, limiting staff’s ability to penalize accounts for violating the platform’s rules around misinformation and hate speech ahead of the midterms. 
  • A federal court ordered a group that has been monitoring drop boxes in Arizona to stay 75 feet away from ballot boxes and prohibited them from posting falsehoods about elections.  

ASD in the News

As midterms loom, TikTok faces its next political test. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman quoted in the Washington Post

Fear, Burnout Plague Harassed US Poll Workers. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in AFP News

Local Officials Confront ‘Daunting’ Flood of Election Rumors. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Bloomberg Law

Inside poll worker training. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on WISN

Cracks appear in U.S. bipartisan support for Ukraine as bills mount, economy near brink of recession. Director Laura Thornton quoted in The Washington Times 

TikTok Has Been Hiring Former CIA, FBI, And NSA Officers, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman interviewed on Newsy 

Elections deniers have been hard at work. Here’s what they have previewed for the midterm elections. ASD reporting cited in Lancaster Online

October 2022 IFES discussion; Foreign manipulation of Democratic processes: Recent META report. Senior Fellow David Levine on an International Foundation for Electoral Systems panel

“Election Denier” greifen in den USA nach Schlüsselpositionen (“Election Deniers” grab key positions in the US). Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Deutschlandfunk

La desconfianza y una ‘lluvia’ de noticias falsas se apoderan del electorado estadounidense de cara a las elecciones de medio mandato (Mistrust and a ‘rain’ of fake news take over the US electorate ahead of the mid-term elections). Midterm Monitor cited in El Universo 

Quote of the Week

“Violence against Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan officials just doing their jobs are the consequence of lies told for power and profit, lies of conspiracy and malice… In this moment, we have to confront those lies with the truth. The very future of our nation depends on it.”

  • President Joe Biden said in a televised address on November 2, 2022.

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