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Our Takes

The spate of US election officials resigning increases the risk that genuine election administration mistakes happen—especially when election offices “aren’t able to bring on an experienced person to help steer the ship”, Senior Fellow David Levine told Talking Points Memo.

Beyond satellite broadband, Western democracies will need to pursue “a broad and diverse array of submarine and terrestrial cables” to connect their infrastructure with the Global South’s—and to combat Beijing’s advances, China Tech Analyst Dylan Welch writes for ASD.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Terrorist Attack in Moscow: The Crocus terrorist attack remained the most discussed story last week across all monitored platforms, with Russian officials continuing to insist that “Americans are protecting those responsible for the terrorist attack”. State media amplified claims that Ukraine and possibly Israel were behind the attacks, and one Russian lawmaker alleged that the attack was the work of an “organized criminal group” led by the United States, NATO, and Ukraine. Multiple state-backed outlets also boosted the claims of pro-Kremlin voices in the West, including far right Dutch politician Marcel de Graaf, who wrote on X that the attacks were “planned and paid for by Ukraine”.
  • Big Pharma and Ukraine: Russian state media and diplomatic accounts resurfaced claims that Ukraine was a “testing ground for Western pharmaceutical companies” after Russia alleged that documents discovered in a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine showed that tests were carried out using a drug that “could cause various forms of cancer”. This follows a Russian state media push in February based on the same alleged document leak. It is the latest in a years-long and widely debunked disinformation campaign to link a range of publicly documented clinical trials in Ukraine to nefarious Western motives.

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

  • Israel-Hamas War: PRC messaging continued to provide extensive coverage of the ongoing war in Gaza. PRC diplomats and state media came out strongly against the Israeli airstrike that killed several Iranian officials in Damascus. They also emphasized international condemnations, notably from Russia and the United Nations. Similarly, Xinhua relayed Australian “anger” and US calls for an investigation over the aid workers killed in an Israeli strike on Tuesday. PRC state media also continued to highlight protests against the war, both in Israel and abroad.
  • South China Sea: After weeks of escalating rhetoric between the PRC and the Philippines, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs lashed out at Manila over it allegedly “[went] back on its word” and engaged in “provocations” in the South China Sea. On X, PRC diplomats in countries including Australia, Canada, Guinea, India, Ireland, Pakistan, the United States, and Uruguay amplified criticism of the Philippines. Several state media outlets and commentators presented the United States as the real culprit behind the tensions.

News and Commentary

EU countries break up Russian propaganda network that paid European politicians: Authorities from several EU member states have dismantled a Russian propaganda network that used the pro-Russia website Voice of Europe as a vehicle to pay politicians from across the EU, including members of the European Parliament, to disseminate pro-Kremlin narratives about Ukraine and influence public opinion before June’s EU elections. Senior Manager for Europe and Fellow Vassilis Ntousas told the Dispatch, “Though I expect more facets of this story to emerge in the coming weeks, allegations like this are often rumored but rarely proven, so this is a hardly surprising yet hugely important development. Russia is and has been engaged in a sophisticated, multi-layered campaign not least to influence political figures in service of its strategic interests, promote its propaganda, and inject its disinformation into the public discourse of many countries, as well as meddle in key elections. Nonetheless, this development can only warrant cautious optimism. First, the fact that this took place so close to the June 2024 European elections means that the biggest part of this malign operation has already impacted its intended target audience. Second, this reveals only a small part of what is understood to be a vastly wider set of operations by Moscow, which means that more comprehensive, coordinated, and ambitious countering actions are urgently needed. Overall, this is a welcome step in a long and laborious road forward.”

Maricopa County, Ariz. explores using AI to streamline internal processes: Maricopa County, Arizona’s Recorder’s Office is exploring using artificial intelligence (AI) to pull data from voter registration forms and other documents in hopes to “improve internal processes and streamline workflow”. Senior Fellow David Levine said, “As technology evolves, election officials are likely to explore more and more ways to use AI to assist with election administration, whether that’s to proof ballots, identify new polling places, or review voter registration applications. As ASD’s AI Election Security Handbook notes, successfully implementing these kinds of innovations will depend on the safeguards election officials have in place for managing the potential risks stemming from their use of AI, such as robust human oversight. For example, if an AI tool helps make a decision that could impact a voter’s ability to successfully cast a ballot, election officials need a process in place to ensure that an actual person reviews this decision. Such a process helps protect against AI performance bias and inaccuracies.” 

In Case You Missed It

  • Germany announced military reforms, including creating a new central command and dedicated branch for cyber defense, amid concerns about Berlin’s cyber preparedness.
  • Russia plans to direct diplomatic outreach and influence campaigns to amplify allied and popular disagreement with French President Emmanuel Macron’s stance on potentially sending troops to Ukraine, according to a Kremlin memo seen by the Wall Street Journal.
  • YouTube failed to detect false information about India’s elections, approving 48 political advertisements uploaded by researchers to test the platform’s policies that alleged electoral fraud and challenged voting procedures, according to an investigation by Access Now and Global Witness. 
  • A US cybersecurity board said a PRC-directed hack of US government officials’ emails last year was “preventable”, faulting Microsoft’s lack of transparency and security lapses.
  • Poland’s government is investigating its predecessor’s alleged use of Pegasus commercial spyware against political opponents.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“Overall, [there] is an increase in sophistication and impact to what we have seen before. … [The Russians] are looking for cracks of doubt or feelings of unease and trying to enlarge them.”

—Ralf Beste, head of the department for culture and communication at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, told the Financial Times on April 1, commenting on increasingly wide-ranging and complex Russian information campaigns to undermine support for Ukraine in Germany.

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