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Our Takes

“We have moved to a new era that… is about these societal level coalitions that pull in players that don’t necessarily interact with each other,” Christopher Walker of the National Endowment for Democracy said at last week’s ASD event in Brussels about how democratic governments and societies can bolster democratic resilience. Check out some of the other highlights here!

“There is no denying that information manipulation is a risk…The question is: have we grown smarter in our fight against it?” Senior Manager for Europe Vassilis Ntousas asked at a panel at Bucharest Forum 2023, hosted by Aspen Institute Romania and GMF. Watch the entire discussion here!

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Israel-Hamas: Russia-backed accounts amplified UNICEF reports of Palestinian casualties and Gaza’s estimates of humanitarian losses, sharing videos of the aftermath of Israeli strikes on Gaza, and highlighting international support for Palestine. Notably, state-backed media also underscored French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments that Israeli authorities need to formulate concrete goals to avoid a protracted conflict.
  • OSCE Ministerial Council: Russian state media closely covered the 30th Ministerial Council of the OSCE gathering in Skopje, North Macedonia and boosted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech that vilified the West, accusing US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken of “running away” and lamenting the ostracization of the Russian delegation. Russia-linked accounts also celebrated limited diplomatic successes such as sideline meetings with Armenia and the Russian-Hungarian negotiations.

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Middle East: While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official messaging on the Israel-Hamas conflict remained non-committal, state media’s coverage was decidedly more one-sided. Chinese state media accused the Israeli army of bombarding areas it had told people were safe havens, featured heart-wrenching human interest stories about Palestinians, and highlighted partisan divisions about the war in the United States. On Instagram, CGTN also implied that “they” (in this case, Wall Street bankers) knew about the October 7 attacks ahead of time.
  • Carrot-and-stick diplomacy: With the 24th EU-China Summit held in Beijing this week, Chinese state media relayed the MFA’s message that the two parties are “partners, not rivals” and praised the European Union for acting “as an independent force in a multipolar world”. More aggressive outlets warned against “malicious attempts to sabotage” the summit and broadcast accusations that the “EU is not serving the interests of the ordinary people”.

Iranian diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Countering the West: In recent days, Iranian state-backed media and diplomatic accounts focused heavily on Iran’s cooperation with states hostile to the United States, including a joint statement between Iran and Russia on their shared efforts to counter Western sanctions. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also hosted Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and posted on Instagram: “[Iran and Cuba] must use these capacities to form an alliance and coalition among countries that It should be used against American and Western bullies.”
  • Israel-Hamas War: Iranian coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas remained heavy, with Iranian media claiming that Israel is suffering the worst military casualties in its history. Iranian propagandists also promoted denial of the atrocities of October 7, wildly exaggerating a small number of friendly fire incidents reported in Israeli media to falsely claim that hundreds of Israelis had been killed by the Israel Defense Forces’ helicopters.

News and Commentary

US government stops sharing information on nation-state threats with tech platforms: The US government has stopped proactively sharing information with Meta and other social media companies about foreign influence campaigns on their platforms, according to officials at Meta, despite increasing concerns of potential foreign interference leading up to the 2024 US presidential election. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told the Dispatch, “This is the unfortunate but entirely predictable result of the congressional investigations, lawsuits, and smear campaigns that have chilled information sharing among tech companies, civil society, and government officials. The effect is that much of the progress that was made after 2016 to improve our readiness for foreign manipulation campaigns has been unwound, leaving us more vulnerable to foreign malign influence targeting not just the election but a range of national security issues.”

Russia-linked group sets up AI-generated disinformation outlet: The prominent Russian-linked influence network Doppelgänger used generative artificial intelligence to write pro-Russian news articles for a fake US news outlet, according to researchers for Recorded Future, who added that the site failed to garner much engagement. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman said, “We’re clearly in the experimentation phase on AI-generated fake news, and it’s no surprise that Russian disinformation artists are entering the fray. The advantage generative AI can impart here is the ability to create native-language-sounding content at scale. On the detection side, however, an exploding use of AI for disinformation may provide clearer hooks and signatures for digital defenders to use to decipher false Russian propaganda from authentic content.”

Election experts warn of serious threats to 2024 from voting software breaches: A letter sent by two dozen election experts warns that the effort to breach election equipment software by individuals attempting to prove false claims about the 2020 election has “urgent implications” for the 2024 election and asks for a federal probe and risk assessment of voting machines used throughout the country. Senior Fellow David Levine said, “This letter is simply the latest example of the mammoth challenges election officials and their partners face with securing the 2024 presidential election in the current hyperpolarized climate. Whether it’s combatting false information, defending election workers from abuse and harassment, protecting the election infrastructure from evolving cyberthreats, or potentially protecting the voting process from threats ‘inside the house’, the threat landscape ahead of 2024 has arguably never been greater. It’s imperative that those who try and subvert an election be held accountable, and that those who know a legitimate election when they see one defend them with more than their voice, whether that’s by voting, serving as a poll worker, and/or being an election observer.”

In Case You Missed It

  • Meta will add invisible watermarks to images produced by their text-to-image artificial intelligence chatbot, Imagine with Meta AI, to increase transparency.
  • A former US ambassador to Bolivia was arrested in a long-running FBI investigation for allegedly serving as a clandestine agent of the Cuban government.
  • A regulatory agency in Florida that oversees the state’s long-term drinking water supply confirmed that it responded to a ransomware attack over the past week, the latest in a series of cyberattacks against US water treatment and distribution infrastructure.
  • Finnish government officials said they believe a Chinese container ship intentionally damaged an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia.
  • Taiwan will subject 22 technologies—including in the defense, semiconductor, and space industries—to further controls to protect them from foreign misuse.
  • Slovakia’s government has redirected funds dedicated to combatting disinformation and promoting media literacy; last week, several top disinformation experts left their ministry posts, citing incompatibility with the new government’s overall approach.

ASD in the News

Putin hijacks Israel-Gaza war to fuel tensions in the West. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer and ASD research quoted in Politico Europe

Ep14. Is Disinformation Destroying Democracy? GMF’s Senior Vice President of Democracy Laura Thornton appeared on Disorder podcast

Russian Payments to Top Journalist Hubert Seipel Jolts Germany. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in The New York Times

Quote of the Week

“The repeated attempts to undermine our democracy are unacceptable. I took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and my office will continue to enforce Arizona’s elections laws and support our election officials as they carry out the duties and responsibilities of their offices.”

—Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said in a statement on November 29 after bringing charges against two Cochise County supervisors for conspiring to delay the counting of the county’s 2022 midterm election votes.


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