The Securing Democracy Dispatch team is taking a break for the holidays. We’ll be back in your inbox in the new year!
Reforming the Electoral Count Act remains critical to ensuring free and fair presidential elections, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in The Fulcrum.
The sentencing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rival, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, to more than two years in prison risks pushing next year’s presidential election from “free but unfair” to “unfree and unfair,” Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg writes on the Interference Matters blog.
Europe and the United States should not let minor disagreements divert their energy from the common autocratic challenges they face, Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas writes in Encompass.
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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis
Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:
- Ukraine: Kremlin-linked accounts claimed that Ukraine was responsible for war crimes, denounced Kyiv’s plan to accelerate peace talks, and said that Western aid to Ukraine was only going to lead to additional deaths.
- Brittney Griner: After largely ignoring WNBA star Brittney Griner for the 294 days that she was detained in Russia, Kremlin-linked media declared victory over the United States when she was released in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who had been imprisoned in the United States.
- Elon Musk: Elon Musk’s account was among the most mentioned accounts by Russian state media and diplomats as they highlighted Musk’s embrace of right-wing grievances and called on Musk to drop restrictions on state-backed Twitter accounts.
Chinese diplomats and state media focused on two main themes:
- Saudi Arabia: Beijing-linked accounts focused heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia, with accounts showcasing Xi receiving an “honorable reception,” criticizing US policy in the Middle East, and explaining that “30 Islamic countries” supported China’s treatment of the Muslim community in Xinjiang.
- Zero covid: “COVID” was the most popular non-Saudi related key phrase and “COVID19” was the fourth most used hashtag in tweets from Beijing-linked accounts as they sought to inspire confidence in the Chinese government’s ability to manage the pandemic.
Read the full report here.
News and Commentary
Top EU lawmaker stripped of VP role following EU-Qatar corruption probe: The European Parliament voted to remove Greece’s Eva Kaili as vice president after she and three others were arrested for allegedly accepting bribes from Qatar to influence EU policymaking. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas said, “This is a tragic development, politically, ethically, and institutionally. What we know so far may prove just the tip of the iceberg, both in terms of the corrupted and the corrupting parts of the equation. It is also highly damaging as it could play into the hands of anti-EU forces and fuel anti-EU sentiment across European societies. This is why the European Parliament should act concretely and resolutely. Where there is political will, there is a way—and a way can and should be urgently found to eliminate unlawful practices, close exploitable loopholes, and fight a sense of impunity, where it exists”.
China launches WTO dispute over US chip export curbs: China filed a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the sweeping set of trade regulations it passed in October to hinder China’s semiconductor industry, as the Netherlands and Japan agreed to also tighten export controls on advanced chip-making machinery to China. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch, “Whispers that democratic partners Japan and the Netherlands may join on to the United States’ export controls on AI-chips and advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment to China herald what would be a major victory for the Biden administration’s technology-driven foreign policy. Trilateral US-Japan-Netherlands coordination on chip export controls is essential both to stunt China’s advanced AI weaponry and to blunt the impacts to one country’s semiconductor industrial sector alone”.
Twitter dissolves Trust and Safety Council: On Monday, Twitter abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group comprised of approximately 100 civil rights organizations, academics, and other volunteers from around the world that formed in 2016 to address hate speech and other safety concerns on the platform. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer said, “While the council was primarily focused on combating hate speech and child exploitation rather than state-backed propaganda, it’s clear that Twitter is trending away from a trust and safety model that takes into consideration the concerns of civil society actors across the globe. This could create real safety and security risks for activists and dissidents working in authoritarian countries or against autocratic governments”.
In Case You Missed It
- The Senate unanimously voted to ban the use of TikTok on government devices and networks over possible national security concerns after a growing number of states passed similar legislation.
- Internet users in China can now be punished for “liking” posts that Beijing considers inappropriate following large scale protests and online criticism of China’s covid policies.
- At least 35 accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency posed as American conservatives on right-wing social media platforms to spread election conspiracies, amassing around 33,000 followers.
- Pro-Kremlin propagandists on social media are attempting to stoke fear and divisions among Europeans about Ukrainian refugees, painting them as radical and violent.
- The Iranian hacking group TA453 appears to have expanded its target list to include US politicians, critical infrastructure, and medical researchers after previously focusing on academics, journalists, and human rights workers.
- The government of Hong Kong—and, by association, China—pressured Google to bury a pro-democracy protest song in search results for its national anthem.
ASD in the News
Efforts Continue to Bring Paul Whelan Home from Russia. Deputy Director David Salvo interviewed on LiveNOW from FOX
Brittney Griner freed in prisoner swap. Deputy Director David Salvo interviewed on Newsy
Why wasn’t Russia willing to give up Paul Whelan in Brittney Griner exchange? To ‘inflict maximum pain on the Biden administration,’ expert says. Deputy Director David Salvo quoted in Yahoo! Sports
DEA agent who helped put Viktor Bout behind bars slams Brittney Griner swap: ‘We couldn’t even get two people for the world’s most notorious weapons trafficker.’ Deputy Director David Salvo quoted in Yahoo! Sports
Leo Varadkar nightclub video goes viral with millions of online views and comment. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar quoted in The Sunday Times
Russian disinformation is demonizing Ukrainian refugees. ASD research cited in The Washington Post
QatarGate puts an end to EU naivety, says Ntousas. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas interviewed in Formiche
Quote of the Week
“To those malign actors, in third countries, who think they can buy their way forward. Who think Europe is for sale. Who think they can take over our NGOs. Let me say that you will find this Parliament firmly in your way. We are Europeans. We would rather be cold than bought.”
- European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in a plenary session on December 12, 2022.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.