Our Take

Campaigns have started to use images generated by artificial intelligence alongside authentic images, making it difficult for citizens to discern which are real and which are fake, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman demonstrated in newly released footage from Face the Nation. 

A record number of citizens are voting by mail in Spain’s national election, but some Spanish politicians risk fueling doubt about the election’s outcome by making unfounded claims about the postal service, Senior Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine wrote in a tweet thread.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Grain deal: Kremlin-linked media tried to justify Russia’s exit from an agreement that allowed grain to be exported from Ukrainian Black Sea ports by blaming a range of Western economic restrictions. State-backed messengers went on to warn that ships carrying cargo in the area would be in a “combat zone”. While some state media claimed that leaving the agreement benefited Russian exporters, others relayed Moscow’s statement that it would reenter the accord under new conditions. Propagandists noted the rise in grain prices but made assurances that Russia would continue supplying grain to the Global South. 
  • BRICS meeting: Russia-affiliated accounts downplayed an announcement that President Vladimir Putin, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over alleged war crimes, would attend an upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa by video rather than in person, claiming that it was “a joint decision” made by Moscow and Johannesburg. Propagandists emphasized that South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa did not want to arrest Putin, which he said would amount to a “declaration of war”. Russian media insisted that Putin would “fully” participate in the summit and that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would be at the event.
  • Crimean bridge: Russian propagandists called a Ukrainian attack on the Crimean bridge a “pointless and brutal” “act of terror”. They drew attention to a couple that was killed in the attack, leaving behind an orphaned 14-year-old daughter. State media went on to assert that the strike was a “PR move to make up for Ukraine’s battlefield failures” and a “US-Ukraine psyop against Russian civilians in Crimea”. They also noted that Russia had “unleashed surgical strikes” against Ukraine in retaliation for the bridge bombing.    

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

  • Grain deal friction: China’s coverage of Russia’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal was uncharacteristically negative. CCTV, CGTN, and others relayed the UN chief’s regret about the move. CGTN Africa shared the African Union’s displeasure with the decision and presented the dire consequences it would have for the continent. China’s  Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it hoped the deal would “continue to be implemented” and ignored the portion of a Russian reporter’s question that implied that “western developed countries” were the deal’s main beneficiaries.
  • Diplomacy in Beijing: Chinese diplomats and state media were attentive to the world leaders and decision makers that visited Beijing last week. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry sat down with Premier Li Qiang, and both Chinese diplomats and state media highlighted the four-hour meeting. Meanwhile, the Algerian president was treated to a grand welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping as Chinese messaging highlighted both countries’ struggle against “imperialism and colonialism”. Xi also met with former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.
  • Japan: Japan was the third most mentioned country in English-language Chinese state media articles published last week, behind China and the United States, and the target of constant attacks related to Tokyo’s impending release of treated water used to cool down the Fukushima nuclear reactor in 2011. Several Chinese diplomatic accounts, as well as some state media outlets, shared a cartoon showing an irradiated little mermaid and a now three-eyed Flounder. China Daily highlighted Japan’s domestic opposition to the government’s plan, while Xinhua interviewed a Turkish scholar who blamed “provocation” from the United States for the release.

News and Commentary

TikTok fails EU stress test for impending social media regulations: TikTok failed a voluntary stress test and has “more work” to do to meet stricter content regulations before the EU’s Digital Services Act enters force on August 25, including increasing transparency about its algorithms and preventing the sharing of illegal content; days later, TikTok expanded access to data about its advertisements and other commercial content in Europe. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “TikTok will not be ‘fully ready’ for normalization as a part of the democratic information space until it divests of its Chinese ownership. The EU’s rules were designed with consumer protection, not geopolitics in mind. But after another massive Chinese cyber attack on cloud services platforms and when human rights are so much at the heart of geopolitics, ignoring this dimension is at our own peril.”

Austria’s Russian gas imports return to pre-Ukraine invasion levels: Austria’s imports of Russian gas have reached levels not seen since before the war in Ukraine began last February, providing Russia with a profit that dwarfs the value of Vienna’s aid to Ukraine. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas said, “The news that Austria’s Russian gas imports at this stage are back to pre-war levels should be hardly surprising, given Vienna’s sluggish progress in reducing its energy reliance on Moscow. This is in part a reflection of historical reasons, but it is also indicative of Austria’s overall ambivalence towards assuming a harder approach vis-à-vis Russia on energy and elsewhere. In this sense, EU unity on sanctions relating to Russia and successes when it comes to handling last winter’s energy crisis should not make us lose sight of two key facts: first, that pipelines still pump Russian gas to Europe, providing crucial income to Moscow, and secondly, that not all EU member states have been equally effective or enthusiastic in terms of weaning themselves off Russian gas. Winter is fast approaching again.”

In Case You Missed It

  • Germany released its first-ever China strategy, which urged companies to reduce their dependencies on Beijing or risk incurring the costs of geopolitical tensions between the two countries.
  • Michigan’s attorney general announced charges against 16 people who served as fake electors and forged documents that falsely claimed that Donald Trump won Michigan’s 2020 presidential election as a part of a scheme to overturn the results. 
  • Meta and Microsoft unveiled Llama 2, an open-source large language model that will be available for free commercial and research use, presenting another alternative to programs like ChatGPT.
  • The Biden administration introduced a program to label smart devices—including household systems like baby monitors—based on their accordance with cybersecurity benchmarks and to create a national registry of certified devices.
  • United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for the creation of a UN watchdog to regulate artificial intelligence during the United Nations Security Council’s first-ever session on the threats AI poses to international security.
  • Taiwanese government officials have asked European allies to help Taipei’s efforts to develop more resilient digital infrastructure, including by strengthening satellite-based communication systems, to prepare for a scenario where China cuts the island’s undersea cables.

Quote of the Week

“Today it is Ukraine, but tomorrow it could be any one of us. What is happening in Ukraine is an unacceptable imperialist war of aggression that violates international law.”

  • Chilean President Gabriel Boric said on July 18 at the European Union-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Brussels.

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