On Tuesday, March 12, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman will participate on a panel about elections in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, alongside Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and elections experts Joan Donovan and Tiana Epps-Johnson. Learn more here!

Our Takes

“They’re very savvy and understand the right buttons to push”, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told AP News about Russian disinformation campaigns in the United States. “If your ultimate objective is to reduce support for Ukraine, your inroad might be talking about how bad things are on the southern border.”

Despite constraints on federal agencies’ engagement with social media companies around content moderation, “they can still play a more robust complementary role, offering technical analysis to state and local election officials and access to novel tools that can help detect synthetically manipulated content”, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman told CyberScoop.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • German Leaks: Germany was the fourth most mentioned country by monitored Russian accounts on Telegram and Facebook last week after RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, leaked audio of an intercepted conversation among high-ranking members of the German military discussing a hypothetical export of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. In response, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev called Germans “[Russia’s] eternal adversaries” and an RT Deutsch headline declared “Death to the Nazi invaders!” Russian officials and state media also alleged that the Bundeswehr “ordered” X to censor accounts that leaked the audio, in what Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Maria Zakharova called a “cover-up”.
  • World Festival of Youth: The festival, held in Sirius, Russia, and billed as the “largest global youth event”, was the most used key phrase last week by monitored accounts on Telegram. Particular focus was given to the US delegation, with RT, Sputnik, and RIA Novosti interviewing the vice chair of the delegation, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for the US Senate seat in Vermont as a member of the Communist Party. This follows last week’s “Second International Russophile Movement Congress” held in Russia, where state media again highlighted the participation of Americans including a social media provocateur and an American-born MMA fighter turned Russian politician.  

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

  • Two Sessions: With the Two Sessions, the PRC government’s two big annual gatherings, taking place in Beijing this week, official announcements were the main topic of PRC messaging. State media and diplomats presented the proceedings as part of the PRC’s “whole-process people’s democracy”, with CGTN affiliate T-House contrasting PRC “democracy that delivers” with “the West”. State media also advertised the PRC’s economic results, calling the government’s projections for 2024 “achievable” and “realistic”.
  • Israel-Hamas War: PRC messaging continued covering the war in Gaza, updating the Palestinian death toll and warning that children were dying of starvation. At the United Nations, PRC officials relayed their disappointment over continued US vetoes while state media highlighted “increasing protests across the country” calling for Washington to stop supporting Israel. Even Western attempts to provide assistance were met with scorn, as PRC state media called airdrops of food “a display of hypocrisy”. 

Iranian diplomats and state media focused on one main narrative this week: 

  • Iranian Elections: Iranian state-backed media focused heavily on Iran’s elections, with numerous stories of citizens and officials casting their ballots, a display PressTV called a “manifestation of a real democracy”. Iran’s Spanish-language outlet, Nexo Latino, claimed that “Iran’s enemies fear[ed]” a high turnout; this comes despite reports that Iran’s elections, which are always strictly controlled, had a much lower than usual turnout.

News and Commentary

BBC News to show content credentials for images, videos on their website: In an effort to mitigate the risk of disinformation, BBC News launched a “content credentials” feature on their website, which informs readers of where an image or video originated and how journalists verified its authenticity. This information is also embedded into the content itself and present when it is shared outside the BBC’s website. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman said, “This is a huge step forward in advancing trust and transparency in our information environment. And it comes not a moment too soon, as elections are unfolding across the globe and AI is entering the information fray. Content credentials are not a panacea, but they need to be part of the solution adopted worldwide by media organizations covering the 2024 elections, before AI-generated visual content spirals completely out of control.”

Colorado launches grant program to bolster election security ahead of 2024: Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced that local election officials in the state can apply for reimbursements for expenses to improve election security and voter accessibility through a new $3.5 million grant program, covering purchases of items such as surveillance cameras, cyber infrastructure, and locks. Co-Managing Director Rachael Dean Wilson told the Dispatch, “This grant program is a laudable response to a shifting election administration landscape. Almost three-fourths of local election officials said they need additional funds to address security concerns and election administration needs, with one in three officials experiencing some kind of harassment because of their job. More states should move to support them and make funds available ahead of 2024, as should Congress.” 

Super Tuesday elections free of serious tampering, CISA officials say: Officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said they did not detect any serious efforts to compromise election infrastructure in the leadup to the Super Tuesday primary elections. Senior Fellow David Levine said, “After repeated warnings that the United States would face more threats in 2024 than previous elections cycles, CISA’s announcement is both welcome news and a reaffirmation of the critical work election officials continue to put in to ensure the integrity of US elections. As states review and double check their election processes prior to finalizing the results, some are likely to identify minor mistakes or errors that necessitate correction, but few, if any, are likely to find that a voting system removed votes, lost votes, altered votes or was in any way compromised. That’s a testament to not only the hard work of those working on the front lines of elections, but those, like CISA, who continue to partner with them to help manage risks to US election infrastructure. It’s imperative that election officials and their partners receive strong bipartisan support to ensure that they can continue the hard and necessary work of securing US election infrastructure from new and evolving threats.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The White House celebrated a bipartisan House bill that would force ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, to sell the platform or face a US ban as a “welcome step”.
  • The US Department of Justice charged a former software engineer for allegedly stealing AI trade secrets from Google while clandestinely working with two PRC-based technology companies.
  • Leading AI image creating tools from OpenAI and Microsoft still generate misleading election-related images despite company policies against the creation of such content.
  • The Biden administration sanctioned a Europe-based consortium for allegedly selling Predator spyware to foreign governments that use it to target US officials and journalists.
  • Russia has increased the quality and frequency of its influence operations in the Baltic countries and Poland, aiming to undermine public order by spreading fear and disapproval of government decisions, according to Lithuanian security services.
  • The Belgian technology research organization Imec has ended several partnerships with PRC-based counterparts amid efforts to constrain the PRC’s access to computer chips.

ASD in the News

Takeaways for Europe as Biden, Trump dominate Super Tuesday primaries. Senior Manager for Europe and Fellow Vassilis Ntousas quoted in Euractiv

‘Game-changing’ Tech Fuels US Relook At China Data Risks. Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman quoted in AFP/Barron’s

U.S. braces for foreign interference in 2024 election. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in Semafor

The 5 Most Pressing Threats To The 2024 Election. Senior Fellow David Levine quoted in Talking Points Memo

China’s Charm Offensive in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Comprehensive Analysis of China’s Strategic Communication Strategy Across the Region [Part II: Influencing the Media]. ASD research highlighted in Diálogo Américas

GDC Newsletter | February 2024. ASD research highlighted in Global Democracy Coalition’s newsletter

Quote of the Week

“In recent years, we’ve seen bad faith actors attempt to exploit these changes [to election processes] by spreading lies and baseless conspiracy theories, and attempting to delegitimize our safe, secure, and accurate elections. … We will continue working to ensure we have another free and fair, safe and secure election.”

—Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt said on February 29 in a press release announcing the formation of an Elections Threats Task Force to mitigate election threats and an official election fact-checking website.


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