The Securing Democracy Dispatch will take a break next week to celebrate Thanksgiving! We will resume the following week.
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Join ASD, the Embassies of the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic to the United States, Friends of Slovakia, the American Friends of the Czech Republic, and the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group for this year’s Freedom Lecture on the importance of free and fair elections on Friday, November 17. Register here!
Russian diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:
- Israel-Hamas: “Hamas” ranked as the most mentioned key phrase on Russian state media websites and in posts from Russian accounts on Instagram. Much of Russia’s outputs about the war focused on the alleged malign role of the West in general and the United States in particular, with some articles positioning China as the favored arbiter in the conflict. On Telegram, monitored Russian accounts highlighted the catastrophic death toll and destruction of property in Gaza, emphasized international condemnation of Israel, and highlighted international protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
- Ukraine: Consistent with previous weeks, Russian diplomats and state media cast doubt on the successes of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. State media on Telegram also alleged that civilians were targeted by Ukrainian armed forces, including the shelling of a hospital in Kremennaya, Ukraine. Last week, “children” was one of the top ten terms used by Russian-affiliated accounts on both Telegram and Instagram, with state media accusing Ukrainian gangs of trafficking children and asserting that Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska’s non-profit organization smuggles children through Poland. Russian media also boosted a comment by EU High Representative Josep Borrell that “Ukraine will not be able to defeat Russia in the near future”.
Chinese diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:
- Biden-Xi meeting: “San Francisco” was the most frequent term in Chinese messaging on YouTube and Facebook over the past seven days, in reference to Xi Jinping’s first stop on his US diplomatic tour. Coverage was overwhelmingly positive, with Facebook posts reminiscing about Xi’s earlier stateside trips and YouTube videos, mostly in Chinese, describing how he was “warmly welcomed”. Even among Chinese commentators who are habitually critical of the United States, there was an effort to cast US-China relations in a positive light last week. Those efforts were not universal, however, with one Phoenix TV segment on YouTube asking, “why does the US (…) make mistakes again and again?” before putting the onus of “repairing” the bilateral relationship exclusively on the US side.
- Israel-Hamas: The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized a G7 statement about the Israel-Hamas war, dismissing it as unhelpful. It also insisted that China is on the side of “the vast Arab, Islamic and African developing countries”. Without referencing China’s role in the conflict, CGTN also provided a distinctly pro-Palestinian framing in its coverage of an “extraordinary Arab-Islamic summit” that accused Israel of war crimes. On Facebook, CGTN America, usually the most balanced Chinese state media outlet, broadcast footage of a Palestinian man being beaten by Israeli soldiers in his home. On Instagram, several state media outlets amplified coverage of a pro-Palestinian march in London.
Iranian diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:
- An isolated Israel (and United States): Iranian diplomats and propagandists worked hard to cast Israel as isolated, promoting content that suggested that large swaths of the global population is supportive of Palestine. In some cases, Iran used Western “validators” like former UK Member of Parliament Chris Williamson to sell this message. They also made posts on Instagram claiming that Israel is hiding severe Israel Defense Forces casualties numbers from the public and celebrating alleged successes by Hamas against the ground invasion. Iranian media cast the United States (and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom) as the real power behind Israel and the decision maker running the war, which would make the United States complicit in the crimes Iran ascribes to Israeli forces.
- Relations with Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia was the fifth most mentioned country on Telegram and Instagram last week in posts made by monitored Iranian accounts. Perhaps driven by Iran’s desire to use the war to drive a wedge between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iranian accounts amplified the claim that the rapprochement brokered by China earlier this year has created a thaw in Tehran-Riyadh relations. Such a thaw, if real, would in principle make normalizing relations with Israel less of a strategic priority for Saudi Arabia.
Meta allows ads that deny 2020 election results: Meta will continue to allow political advertisers on Facebook and Instagram to claim past elections—including the 2020 US presidential election—were “rigged” or “stolen”, but will not allow ads that question the legitimacy of ongoing or future elections. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer said, “Meta’s updated policy is part of a larger movement across all legacy social media companies to loosen past restrictions, disband election integrity units, and generally tear down defenses that were created prior to and after the 2020 US presidential election. The policy itself also does not make a ton of sense. If Meta’s position is that ‘free speech considerations’ should trump election integrity concerns, that’s perhaps defensible. But the convoluted carve-outs included in this policy make it clear that that is not, in fact, Meta’s position; instead, Meta’s position appears to be a transparent attempt at fence-sitting that will allow the company to insulate itself against political attacks from both the left and right.”
Biden, Xi discuss AI threats and use in weaponry: After a long-awaited meeting, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not establish a formal channel or dedicated working group to discuss the use of artificial intelligence in autonomous weapons systems—including nuclear weapons and drones—but acknowledged a dialogue would continue between top US and Chinese diplomats. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch, “There aren’t many areas where officials in Washington are racing to cooperate with China on AI. Nor should there be given differences in value systems on how AI is developing. However, mitigating the risks of AI weapons is one of them, where that dialogue is necessary to avoid an automated dead-hand scenario with nuclear weapons in the event of miscommunication and conflict.”
In Case You Missed It
- Cyprus promised to place additional restrictions on its financial sector after a data leak revealed that Russian oligarchs used Cypriot firms to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid EU sanctions.
- Roughly twice as many US adults get their news on TikTok as did in 2020, according to data from Pew Research Center.
- The United States and Indonesia announced plans to deepen cooperation on semiconductor value chains as the United States deepens technology restrictions on China.
- Extremist groups linked to the Islamic State and neo-Nazis have begun to experiment with generative artificial intelligence to produce waves of online content, experts caution.
- A new report revealed that Denmark suffered the largest cyberattack in its history this May, in which 22 Danish energy companies were breached and their operations disrupted.
- Britain’s National Cyber Security Center warned that the spread of falsified information generated by artificial intelligence threatens the country’s 2025 elections.
“We have seen the results of relying on Russia for our energy supply. We should not repeat this mistake by relying on China to provide the technology for our critical networks.”
—NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the first annual NATO Cyber Defense Conference in Berlin on November 9.