Our Take

Voters’ wide rejection of election denier candidates in the 2022 US midterms shows that voters are  looking for candidates that build trust in US election processes, Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson said on Newsy. 

Russian information operators in government and state-sponsored media presented a relatively united front at the onset of the renewed invasion of Ukraine, but a series of setbacks in Russia’s war has led to significantly divergent messages, Research Trainee Nash Miller and Deputy Director David Salvo write on the Interference Matters blog.

Iranian government and state media tweets sought to portray the Mahsa Amini protests as part of a foreign anti-regime conspiracy and accused protestors of violence against security forces, the Information Manipulation Team finds in their October analysis of Hamilton 2.0 data.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • Ukraine Power Outages: Kremlin-linked accounts tried to justify widespread Russian attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure, which left many in the country without electricity or water, by arguing that the strikes were retaliation for Western efforts to arm Ukraine and framing the attacks as defensive against the Ukrainian army, which, according to Russia’s UN account, “threatens the security and territorial integrity of Russia.”
  • China Protests: While Russian state media’s coverage of the protests was limited and largely factual, individual state media contributors vocalized their support for Beijing, with one account suggesting that the United States was behind the protests and others arguing that Western media outlets were supporting Chinese activists.
  • Taiwan Elections: Kremlin-backed accounts celebrated the victory of Taiwan’s main opposition party in local elections, painting it as an embarrassment for the United States and NATO.     

Chinese diplomats and state media’s messaging centered around the outbreak of protests across the country:

  • Strategic Silence: China’s propagandists met the protests with strategic silence. Only one account directly acknowledged the unrest, while some diplomatic accounts alluded to it by sharing a slogan about fighting an unnamed “great obstacle” and claiming that rioters were flown in from Hong Kong and Taiwan. 
  • BBC Reporter Arrest: Chinese diplomatic accounts responded to the violent  arrest of a BBC reporter covering protests in Shanghai by claiming the BBC was involved in “deliberate distortion of truth” and highlighting the arrest of protesters in the United Kingdom in 2020 and 2021. 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

China uses surveillance to suppress covid protests: Chinese authorities are employing surveillance and intimidation to quash widespread protests against China’s covid-19 restrictions, including using messaging applications, social media, and mobile phone data to track down protest participants and organizers. Research Analyst Etienne Soula told the Dispatch,The Chinese state has spent years deploying hardware, software, and legislation to ensure it fully controls the information space inside China. Like Hong-Kong’s youth before them, mainland protesters are now confronted with the full spectrum of the government’s techno-authoritarian repressive measures. This is yet more incriminating evidence that Chinese information technology systems are not neutral and will harm democracy wherever they take hold.”

United States bans sale of Huawei, ZTE over national security concerns: On Saturday, the United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously to ban the sale and import of new telecommunications and surveillance equipment made by prominent Chinese companies, including Huawei and ZTE, citing “an unacceptable risk” to national security. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technology Lindsay Gorman said, This latest move from the FCC is a necessary albeit obvious step. Chinese firms with state ties have no business building critical information infrastructure in the United Statesnor in many free and open democracies. For years the US State Department has sought to convince allies to eschew these platforms in favor of at times more expensive alternatives due to precisely these risks. This week’s ban makes it clear that when it comes to digital infrastructure in the United States, our money is where our mouth is.”

AZ, PA counties fail to certify midterm election results: Officials in Cochise County, Arizona and Luzerne County, Pennsylvania failed to certify their midterm election results—a move that could exclude more than 47,000 Arizonan and 170,000 Pennsylvanian votes from the final vote count, respectively—despite finding no legitimate problems with the local vote count. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said,The delayed certification of results in these places is a reminder that election conspiracy theorists remain a threat to disrupt American elections. While election deniers were largely rejected in last month’s statewide elections for positions overseeing voting, they continue to maintain significant influence in parts of the country and should not be ignored as efforts get underway in earnest to prepare for 2024.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • EU imports of seaborne Russian liquefied gas rose by more than 40 percent this year despite the EU’s attempts to wean itself off Russian energy.
  • Chinese-language accounts flooded Twitter with spam and adult content in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to obscure the flow of news in major protest hotspots in China. 
  • The European Parliament inquiry on Pegasus spyware is the target of a disinformation campaign designed to encumber the investigation, a group of renowned surveillance experts warned
  • Two of the world’s largest satellite companies—France’s Eutelsat and Luxembourg’s SES—carry Russian channels that feed pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda about the war in Ukraine to tens of millions of people across the globe.   
  • Kremlin hackers shut down the European Parliament website for several hours shortly after EU lawmakers approved a resolution calling Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
  • Serbian authorities have been accused of using Huawei cameras to film and identify demonstrators that participated in a series of environmental protests that took place throughout the country in 2021.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“The war in Ukraine demonstrated our dangerous dependency on Russian gas. This should also lead us to assess our dependencies on other authoritarian states, not least China.” 

  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the Aspen-GMF Bucharest Forum on November 29, 2022

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