Our Take

At the start of the new year, we asked our experts to each put forth one recommendation that would strengthen democracy during a period of declining trust, emboldened autocrats, and war. Their answers touch on a variety of issues—from the war in Ukraine to the 2024 US presidential election and TikTok—but they all have a common theme: strengthening democracy is a proactive effort, and we must be vigilant, innovative, and work together to counter autocrats’ attempts to make the world less free. Read our 2023 policy recommendations here. 

Last week’s vote for speaker of the US House of Representatives feeds into the preexisting lack of trust in Congress and public frustration with politics, creating fertile opportunity for autocrats to gloat, Senior Vice President for Democracy Laura Thornton writes in The Hill. 

The Biden administration should demonstrate US commitment to Ukraine’s reconstruction by convincing the G7 to appoint a respected American to coordinate efforts to rebuild Ukraine as a modern European democracy, Senior Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph, Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, and Amb. Norman Eisen write in Just Security. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives:

  • Brazil: Russian diplomats expressed solidarity with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva after a right-wing coup failed to oust him from office, while state-linked media framed the insurrectionists as fascists, debated whether the events were similar to the 2021 storming of the US capitol, and spread disinformation about US government involvement in the Brazilian coup attempt.
  • Ukraine: Kremlin-affiliated accounts bashed Ukraine for refusing to enter a ceasefire during Orthodox Christmas, said that moves by Western countries to supply Ukraine with armored vehicles crossed “a red line”, and largely ignored the intense fighting in the city of Bakhmut.
  • United States: Moscow-linked media made fun of Republicans’ struggle to elect a speaker of the House and attacked President Joe Biden while he toured the southern border, met with other North American leaders, and reacted to news that classified documents had been found in a private office used by the president. 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on two main topics:

  • Covid: Covid-related key phrases and hashtags were exceptionally frequent in tweets by Chinese diplomats and state media, with posts praising Beijing’s handling of the virus, criticizing restrictions placed on Chinese travelers, and accusing Western media of hyping up China’s struggles with the pandemic.  
  • United States: Chinese diplomats and state media figures cited the process to elect the speaker of the House of Representatives as evidence of the failures of US democracy and warned that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would paint China as a “political bogeyman”.

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

United States, Brazil to cooperate on investigations of pro-Bolsonaro riots: US and Brazilian lawmakers are discussing ways to collaborate on an investigation into Sunday’s disinformation-fueled riot in Brazil’s capital—which some have compared to the January 6 insurrection in the United States—after 74 lawmakers from both countries issued a statement condemning attacks on democracy. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said,If Brazil is to prevent a recurrence of the January 8th riots, it needs to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the facts, circumstances, and causes that led to the storming of its Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential offices by backers of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro. While there are a number of key differences between the January 6, 2021 election insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and Sunday’s riots in Brazil’s capital, the latter clearly drew inspiration from the former. The success of this investigation could depend on how well the United States and Brazil cooperate.”

United States, Canada, Mexico to coordinate chip investments: The United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed at the North American Leaders Summit to increase coordination of semiconductor investments across the continent to counter China’s dominance in the industry, including by collaborating to identify opportunities, mapping supply chains, and advancing technology. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch,The integration of alliances into semiconductor opportunities and investments is critical to building a more unified approach to emerging technology competition. The big questions of course are whether the United States will succeed in bringing allies on board to its ‘protect’ measures on semiconductors such as the export controls on AI-relevant chips. But steps like this week’s take a long-term view—that in integrating our technical investments and ecosystems upfront on the ‘promote’ side, we can both more effectively compete and better weather the effects of ‘protect’ actions down the track.”

Iran may be using facial recognition to ID women breaking hijab laws: Experts suspect that the Iranian government has been using facial recognition to identify and penalize women violating hijab laws. Senior Vice President for Democracy Laura Thornton said, “This is yet another example of how autocratic actors use technology to subvert human rights. And attacks on women are a favorite go-to in the authoritarian playbook in efforts to divide society and establish pecking orders. We’ve seen strongmen turn to digital tools to attack women, particularly public figures, including surveillance of activities, online threats and violence, and video of private lives as a form of humiliation and/or blackmail.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • Ukrainian officials want the International Criminal Court to investigate Russian cyberattacks on Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure as war crimes.
  • China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, a controversial diplomat who epitomized “wolf warrior diplomacy”, was demoted to a less prominent post, signaling a potential softening in Beijing’s diplomatic strategy. 
  • The FBI is using Facebook ads to identify Chinese language speakers in the United States that may have been harassed, intimidated, or digitally stalked by Chinese government actors.
  • The Serbian government repelled five “massive” distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that aimed to disabled the IT infrastructure of the Ministry of Interior amid heightened tensions between Serbia and Russia.
  • China’s internet regulator is implementing new rules to restrict the production of deepfakes, making it one of the first governments to regulate media generated or edited by artificial intelligence.
  • Japan’s Foreign Ministry will launch an AI-powered system this year that will analyze fake information on social media to bolster its fight against foreign disinformation campaigns. 

ASD in the News

Idaho can bolster trust in voting and election integrity, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in Idaho Statesman 

15 minutes with elections expert David Levine. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed in OSET Institute’s Tabulator 

What’s in & what’s out for election administration in 2023. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine contributed to Electionline

Prosecuting a president: What can US learn from other nations? Senior Vice President for Democracy Laura Thornton quoted in Christian Science Monitor

Putin’s Disastrous Obsession With the Past. ASD at GMF research highlighted in Inside Sources

Quote of the Week

“The EU and NATO share the same common values of freedom and democracy, and we share the same goal: peace, freedom and prosperity for our people.”

  • President of the European Council Charles Michel said at the joint press conference on EU-NATO cooperation on January 10, 2023.

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