Our Take

Instead of pursuing a platform-by-platform approach to social media regulation, as many governments have with TikTok, democracies should work together to develop a comprehensive framework for addressing the threats posed by authoritarian internet apps and critical information infrastructure, Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said in testimony to Australian Parliament. Read the transcript here.

The 2024 US presidential election could be the first race in which deepfakes and AI-generated images play a significant role, Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said on DW News.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is part of China’s diplomatic push to portray itself as a responsible power that can broker peace and replace the United States on the global stage, Research Analyst Etienne Soula said on LiveNOW from FOX.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives this week:    

  • Drones near Kremlin: On May 3, Russia shot down a pair of drones near the Kremlin. Russian officials claimed Ukraine launched the drones in a “premeditated terrorist attack and an assassination attempt” against President Vladimir Putin. Various Kremlin-linked accounts threatened to flatten the Ukrainian president’s office and home. They also amplified warnings about World War III. On May 4, Russian government accounts began to insist that the United States aided Ukraine’s alleged attack on the Kremlin. 
  • Ukraine’s counteroffensive: Kremlin-linked accounts sent conflicting messages about Ukraine’s pending counteroffensive. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that the West was behind Ukraine’s plans, while state media amplified reports about the United States being “in the dark” about Kyiv’s strategy. Tass highlighted quotes about Ukraine having “unlimited” ammunition, while RT highlighted quotes about Ukraine’s limited weapons. State-run outlets also boasted about Russian forces attacking Ukrainian railway infrastructure and weapons facilities. 
  • Sudan: Russian propagandists continued to post frequently about the conflict in Sudan, making it the fourth most mentioned country by Russian state media and diplomatic accounts last week. Kremlin-linked accounts largely provided factual updates on the fighting and the evacuation of Russian citizens. Some also blamed the United States for the division and violence.   

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main topics this week:

  • Yoon in Washington: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s amicable visit to Washington drew the ire of Chinese diplomats and state media. CGTN affiliates T-House and Frontline accused Yoon of “fail[ing] to serve the best interests” of his country and highlighted the protesters that opposed the visit. A Pakistan-based diplomat called the Korean leader “a little henchman”, and the consul in Osaka warned alignment with the United States would transform South Korea into “an ammunition depot”. As Yoon was flying back, CGTN broadcast a “TV series about the great victory of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea”.
  • Criticizing democracies: While Xinhua portrayed the United States as destabilizing South Korea, the consul in Belfast shared a cartoon depicting Washington pouring gas on the Ukraine war. Another diplomat blamed US hypocrisy for worsening ties with China. Frontline broadcast a piece featuring Sputnik contributor George Galloway going after “British and American media”, while the consul in Osaka amplified a video of Member of European Parliament Clare Daly accusing the EU of enabling US warmongering.
  • War in Sudan: Sudan was the third most mentioned country by Chinese diplomats and state media last week. Chinese state media hyped up their country’s successful evacuation of Chinese citizens. Several accounts highlighted China’s efforts to help other nationals, most notably Pakistanis, leave Sudan. Others emphasized the importance of China’s African partners, as well as the love and respect Chinese citizens received when arriving in Saudi Arabia.

News and Commentary

European Parliament lawmakers warn of foreign threats to next year’s elections: Members of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for EU-wide preventative approaches to combat information manipulation from hostile states and rules on external financing of political parties ahead of next year’s EU parliamentary elections. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas told the Dispatch, “This report, which builds on and expands many earlier findings but places them in the critical context ahead of the 2024 European elections, is the latest important example of a European Union that recognizes and moves to deal with interference and information manipulation. The text does not solely raise the alarm over mounting foreign efforts to undermine democracy across the continent, but also does not shy away from mentioning several cases of domestic enablers of said interference, including political elites in the EU advancing Gazprom’s agenda and Hungary’s susceptibility to Russian intelligence activities. Crucially, it also calls for two additional key measures: the release of adequate funding necessary to tackle disinformation and uphold democratic processes, and the exclusion of the use of equipment and software from manufacturers from high-risk countries.”

Germany opens more polling stations for Turkish diaspora voters: Germany’s foreign ministry approved three of Turkey’s requested 13 additional polling stations for diaspora voters in Turkey’s upcoming presidential election, rejecting 10 others over security concerns, spurring fears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s supporters might accuse Germany of sabotaging his reelection bid. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said, “Turkish citizens living in Germany have more polling stations to vote at in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections than in any previous Turkish election. If anyone believes Germany’s rejection of Turkey’s request for additional polling places is suspect, the onus is on them to provide proof. Otherwise, such allegations risk casting further doubt on the legitimacy of Turkey’s upcoming elections, or worse.”

In Case You Missed It

  • Iran carried out 24 “cyber-enabled influence operations” against Middle Eastern adversaries, opposition figures, and the United States in 2022—a 300% increase from 2021, according to Microsoft.
  • The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has provided some Russians with access to information about the war in Ukraine by hiding its journalists’ reporting in secret maps in a popular Russian video game, circumventing Russian censorship. 
  • Meta’s latest adversarial threat report revealed the company took down six covert influence operations on the site, two of which originated in China; one posed as news outlets and human rights groups critical of the United States and India, while another attempted to recruit protesters and NGOs in sub-Saharan African countries.
  • A Russian spy network has procured sensitive technology, such as microchips and industrial manufacturing parts, from German and Finnish companies in the past year, bypassing EU sanctions.
  • An Israeli Knesset committee revealed that police in the country attempted to wiretap more than 1,000 phones with spyware and accused the police of illegally collecting data from infected devices.
  • A Chinese combat drone capable of carrying heavy weaponry in long-range missions flew around Taiwan late last week, encircling it in a rarely attempted complete circuit, as Beijing steps up its war games around the island.

ASD in the News

China to Send Peace Delegation to Ukraine. Research Analyst Etienne Soula interviewed on LiveNOW from FOX

‘Godfather of AI’ leaves Google and warns of danger. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman interviewed on DW News

Will TikTok’s “sister” apps also come under scrutiny in the US? Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman quoted in Observador

Ecco cos’ha fatto la propaganda cinese sul video del Dalai Lama. Research Analyst Etienne Soula quoted in Formiche

Quote of the Week

“All over the world, autocrats—and those who aspire to join their ranks—have used censorship, media repression and attacks on journalists to consolidate power. That’s because gaining control of information is essential to gaining control of everything else.”

  • A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, said in remarks at a United Nations event commemorating the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day on May 2.

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