Our Take

Lemon8, a new app from TikTok parent ByteDance, is still relatively small in the United States, but it could grow to pose national security risks, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman said on CNN. 

The only way Russia can win the war is if the United States and its allies stop supporting Ukraine, former Rep. Tom Malinowski said at an ASD event on building a transparent and accountable Ukraine last month. ICYMI, watch the recording here. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on two main topics this week:

  • NATO: “NATO” was the most frequently used key phrase by Russia-backed Twitter accounts as the alliance held its summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this week. Propagandists amplified claims that US lawmakers pushing for Ukraine to join NATO were trying to launch a third world war. They also insisted that Ukraine was using NATO weapons against civilians and argued that Kyiv was planning a nuclear false flag attack to draw NATO into the war. Finally, they highlighted divisions within NATO and showcased Ukraine’s disappointment with a statement made by the alliance.
  • Cluster munitions: “Cluster munitions” was the fourth most frequently used key phrase in tweets by Russia-affiliated accounts last week, in reference to the US decision to send the weapons to Ukraine. Propagandists pointed to international norms against the use of cluster bombs (nevermind that Russia is a non-signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions), circulated comments by former White House press secretary Jen Psaki connecting the weapons to war crimes, and relayed messages by US lawmakers and political candidates who disagreed with sending the arms to Ukraine.  

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

  • Yellen and cluster munitions: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Beijing over the weekend injected some optimism in Chinese messaging related to the United States, with Premier Li Qiang hoping for “more rainbows” after “wind and rain”. A couple of days later, however, Chinese state media outlets were once again accusing Washington of double standards, this time by implying that the United States was enabling war crimes over its decision to ship cluster munitions to Ukraine (like Russia, China is also a non-signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions).
  • NATO in the crosshairs: Chinese messaging pushed back vigorously against NATO’s growing focus on the Indo-Pacific region. Xinhua portrayed the alliance as “the ghost of military hegemony” in a highly stylized video that also accused NATO of bringing “havoc to the world”. Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts pushed the idea that NATO, allegedly controlled by Washington, seeks to destabilize Asia by dragging countries like Japan and India down a self-destructive path.
  • Fukushima: Chinese messaging criticized Japan in response to Tokyo’s decision to release Fukushima nuclear treatment water into the ocean over the summer. Pro-Beijing accounts questioned the safety of the release, consistently calling the water “nuclear-contaminated”. In a widely relayed quip, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that Japan should use the water for drinking or swimming.

News and Commentary

GOP unveils election reform bill: On Monday, House Republicans introduced a comprehensive election reform bill that would require all voters to present identification, give states access to federal voter data, and change campaign finance rules. Democrats, on the other hand, plan to reintroduce their own proposal that aims to criminalize harassment towards election officials and expand ballot access. Senior Fellow for Elections Integrity David Levine said, “These efforts by the House GOP and Democrats are a recognition that Congress can have a significant role in improving US elections. Unfortunately, both proposals appear more likely to rally the party faithful than shore up the security of the votes in 2024. If federal legislators want to show that they’re serious about trying to help improve the conduct of US elections, they should put forward evidence-based proposals that stand a chance of passage in the currently divided Congress.”

China cracks down on AI: China’s government will tighten regulations on artificial intelligence, including through requirements that companies obtain a license before releasing AI models to the public, in order to expand its surveillance regime over the new technology while attempting to avoid stifling innovation. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “Surveillance and control has been at the heart of China’s approach to AI innovation. In the past, these goals have been mutually beneficial, with government-sponsored surveillance seeding the private AI industry in China. With large language models, that coupling isn’t quite so clean, and the threats to state security are in tension with innovation—for now. Our job as democracies is to ensure open expression aligns with technical innovation and guard against a new AI-enabled ecosystem of control.”

Lithuania stands firm on Taiwan, calls China “aggressive”: Lithuania’s new Indo-Pacific strategy, released a week before NATO’s summit in Vilnius, says that China’s attempted economic coercion has failed, despite Beijing’s increasingly autocratic and aggressive policies, and solidifies the Baltic country’s commitment to strengthening ties with Taiwan and countering Chinese disinformation about the island. Research Analyst Etienne Soula told the Dispatch, “Lithuania’s Indo-Pacific Strategy shows the limitations of the Chinese state’s economic bullying tactics. After almost two years of pressuring the Baltic nation over its decision to upgrade its relations with Taiwan, Beijing has only strengthened Vilnius’ resolve to push back against what the new report calls ‘ever intensifying autocratic control methods’ and ‘an increasingly aggressive foreign policy’. Not only that, but Beijing’s bullying has also hastened the EU’s adoption of new legislative tools, like the upcoming Anti-Coercion Instrument, that aim to make European economies more resilient against economic coercion.”

In Case You Missed It

  • Chinese hackers infiltrated the emails of employees at the US Commerce and State departments, including that of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo ahead of her expected trip to China late this summer, by exploiting a flaw in Microsoft’s cloud email service.
  • Several Twitter profiles with blue checkmarks, acquired through the platform’s new paid verification model, are major vectors for pro-Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine, according to BBC News.
  • The European Commission approved a US-EU data privacy framework, giving EU citizens the ability to object if they believe US intelligence agencies improperly collected their data and creating an independent court composed of US judges to oversee such cases.
  • TikTok executives said they would break Chinese law if necessary to comply with Australian requests for personal data at an Australian Senate committee hearing dedicated to investigating the threat of foreign interference to the country’s democracy.
  • Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and other US officials gave US senators their first-ever classified briefing on artificial intelligence, which reportedly focused on US adversaries’ use of the technology and how AI can aid US national security.
  • The United States sanctioned the director of Serbia’s intelligence agency for misusing public office to support Russian malign activities in the Western Balkans and helping a US-sanctioned Serbian arms dealer with illegal arms shipments. 

ASD in the News

Yellen urges ‘direct’ talks, US-China climate collaboration. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman quoted in AFP

Yellen says visit helps put US-China ties on ‘surer footing.’ Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman quoted in AFP

What are the Mechanisms that will be Adopted Scientifically to Distinguish What is Artificial and What is Real in Artificial Intelligence? Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman interviewed on Alhurra

EIP 2023: Panel 13: Electoral Laws & Institutions. Senior Fellow David Levine and Program Assistant Krystyna Sikora present at the Electoral Integrity Project conference

Quote of the Week

“Unity doesn’t mean every ally sees every issue exactly the same way. What it means is that we can come together from somewhat different tactical perspectives to join in a common strategic vision and strategic approach.”

  • White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at the NATO Public Forum, an event co-hosted by GMF, in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12.

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