Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Civil War in the United States: Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev created a stir last week with a post that asserted that the ongoing dispute between the Biden administration and the state of Texas over border security could devolve into civil war. Russian state media gave the narrative an additional push—there were over 300 posts from monitored accounts mentioning Texas and close to 40 that mentioned “Texas” and “war” in the same post last week. While Sputnik suggested that border issues could lead to a “huge explosion” in the United States and RT en Español questioned whether the United States was approaching “civil war 2.0”, other outlets were more circumspect. Life.ru, for example, interviewed a Russian analyst who concluded that the risk of secession was highly unlikely.
  • President Zelenskyy: There were multiple state media articles last week that attempted to drive a wedge between the West and Ukraine by framing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as ungrateful for Western support. RT en Español, for example, claimed that Zelenskyy “blames the West” for the “special military operation, while RT Deutsch suggested that Zelenskyy wants German citizens to transfer their “money and social assistance” directly to Kyiv. 

The People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Israel-Hamas War: On FacebookYouTube, and Instagram, the top posts about the ongoing war in the Middle East talked about South Africa’s genocide accusations in the International Court of Justice, especially about plans to frame the United States and United Kingdom in the proceeding as being “complicit”. PRC state media accounts on TelegramFacebook, and X drew frequent attention to the rising death toll, and the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) positioned the PRC as a possible host for an international peace conference.
  • French-PRC relations: France was the third most mentioned country by PRC YouTube and Facebook accounts, behind the PRC and the United States. The MFA highlighted the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between Beijing and Paris and a major French TV channel teamed up with PRC state media to broadcast a special show about the anniversary. The leaders of both countries gave special speeches; however, only PRC President Xi Jinping’s received dedicated attention. On the day of the anniversary, CGTN in French also ran a short story about farmers’ protests in France.

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

  • Arms race: Iranian state-backed media spent much of the past week trumpeting Iran’s successful space launch, which put three new satellites into orbit. The Simorgh rocket used in the launch had failed in multiple previous launch attempts, and US officials have warned that Iran’s development of satellite launch vehicles is part of its efforts to build and test technologies used for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • Support for Houthis: Iranian media also sought to play up the success and resilience of Iran’s proxy in Yemen, Ansar Allah (better known in the West as the Houthis). They claimed that a UK ship attacked by Ansar Allah fighters in the Red Sea had been carrying fuel for Israeli aircraft.

News and Commentary

Unsubstantiated theories about Taylor Swift gain traction ahead of Super Bowl: Unsubstantiated theories centered around American pop icon Taylor Swift have spread among some supporters of former US President Donald Trump, including claims that Swift has attempted to bolster her popularity via her relationship with a prominent American football player in preparation for an alleged forthcoming endorsement of President Joe Biden and that she is an agent of the US Department of Defense. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told the Dispatch, “While it’s easy to dismiss this as laughable and a farce, the same thing was said about Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories when they started to bubble up across the internet. The difference here is that these stories about Swift have gotten an early signal boost from voices with huge followings, and, given that the ‘proof’ of the theory is dependent on a Kansas City Chiefs win in the Super Bowl—at least a probable, if not a likely, outcome (sorry San Francisco 49ers fans)—this one will be easier to keep going than those that required the appearance of lizard people.” 

Biden administration releases new AI measures: The White House released an update on actions taken to curb national security threats from artificial intelligence (AI) following the Biden administration’s landmark executive order three months ago, including requiring AI developers to disclose the results of safety tests to the US Department of Commerce and draft legislation requiring US cloud companies to alert the government if they provide computing power to foreign clients. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman said, “Closing the cloud loophole on autocratic AI developments is going to be a key piece of ensuring that US technology does not enable foreign rivals’ militaries or human rights abuses. We are accustomed to think of hardware as the controllable technology, but with frontier models being licensed over the cloud, these controls may expand into new dimensions of the technology stack. The sectoral-based risk assessments will also be critical to understanding where further regulatory scrutiny is needed and where technology development can proceed without deeper policy intervention.”

FBI warns of PRC efforts to hack critical infrastructure: FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that PRC hackers are positioning on US critical infrastructure to “wreak havoc and cause real-world harm” to American communities, after US government agencies disabled the PRC-linked hacking operation Volt Typhoon that compromised thousands of internet-connected devices. Co-Managing Director David Salvo said, “The PRC has long used cyber operations as an asymmetric tactic in both the military and non-military domains. The Volt Typhoon hacking collective at the center of these latest hacking campaigns appears to be targeting both. The PRC has an obvious interest in using cyber tools to disrupt US military operations in the Pacific, given tensions over Taiwan. It also has an interest in targeting US critical infrastructure, possibly including electoral infrastructure. Targeting civilian infrastructure gives the PRC a solid understanding of US vulnerabilities if it ever chooses to attempt to destabilize US elections or US society.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The German Foreign Ministry uncovered a pro-Russia disinformation campaign on X that used thousands of fake accounts focused on eroding German support for Ukraine.
  • The PRC has approved more than 40 AI models for public use in the last six months as the country tries to keep pace with the United States in AI development.
  • The EU released its second annual disinformation report, which found that disinformation in 2023 largely focused on attacking Ukraine, prominent news outlets, and LGBTQ+ groups, and spreading falsified information before national elections.
  • A Russian importing company has obtained $20 million worth of Taiwan-produced precision machine tools used for weapons manufacturing since January 2023, mostly via third countries like Türkiye and the PRC.
  • The EU approved €50 billion in aid to Ukraine after EU leaders convinced Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán—long a critic of Ukraine aid—not to veto the package.
  • US agencies overseeing several critical infrastructure areas remain unaware as to whether companies in their sectors have implemented US government-recommended protections against ransomware attacks, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“AI technology is advancing faster than the necessary guardrails. Whether the victim is Taylor Swift or any young person across our country, we need to establish safeguards to combat this alarming trend.”
—US Representative Thomas Kean, Jr. said in a press release on January 25 in reaction to explicit AI-generated deepfakes of Taylor Swift spreading on social media.

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