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Our Takes

Russia’s online influence campaigns have seized on US divisions over the Israel-Hamas war to “undermine the West”, divert attention from the war in Ukraine, and portray Russia as a champion of the Palestinian cause, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told NBC News.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Ukraine Assistance: Russian messengers continued to minimize the significance of the recently passed US aid package to Ukraine. They highlighted Ukraine’s battlefield setbacks, the insufficiency of the aid, and voices critical of Washington’s support of a so-called “forever war”. State media also suggested that much of the aid would merely benefit the “US military industrial complex” or be stolen because of Ukrainian corruption.
  • US Campus Protests: Russian state media consistently highlighted images and videos of the “violent repression” of protesters on college campuses across the United States, which certain outlets claimed were orchestrated by US President Joe “Biden’s police”. Sputnik suggested that the threats to protestors “echo deadly violence of Kent State” and that the crackdown was proof of US hypocrisy regarding free speech. State media also amplified a quote from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likening the situation on US campuses to “Nazi Germany in 1930”, with one commentator alleging that the United States was “following orders” from Netanyahu. 

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

  • US Campus Protests: US law enforcement crackdown of student protests at campuses around the country drew professed concern from PRC state media outlets. PhoenixTV deplored the death of “American-style democracy”, CGTN America posted photos of arrests in Texas and California, and CGTN-affiliate Frontline highlighted the international dimension of the protests. PRC diplomats largely avoided the topic, but the PRC Embassy in Kazakhstan and the Consul-General in Osaka, Japan both came out in support of the protesters.
  • Blinken Visit: PRC diplomats and state media outlets responded critically to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing last week. PRC leader Xi Jinping called for both countries to “shoulder responsibilities for world peace’’ before warning that cooperation should be “a two-way street”. PRC messaging dismissed US concerns about the PRC’s economic overcapacity, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quipping that the real issue was a “US overcapacity of anxiety”.

News and Commentary

Vast majority of election officials report taking critical steps to increase election security since 2020: A Brennan Center for Justice survey of 928 local election officials found that 92% of their offices have taken critical steps since 2020 to improve election security and staff safety, including implementing cybersecurity protocols, upgrading election equipment, or enhancing the physical security of voting locations. Yet, concerns about threats, harassment, and insufficient resources for day-to-day administrative and security issues remain. Senior Fellow David Levine said, “US election officials continue to do their part to ensure a successful 2024 election. Large numbers of officials report increasing cybersecurity protections for their election technology, increasing the physical security of their election offices and polling places, and strengthening their relationships with law enforcement to ensure the safety of election workers and voters alike.   But if the American public wants to ensure their votes count in 2024, they’ll need to do more to ensure the safety of the vote counters from malicious actors, both foreign and domestic.”

European Commission investigates Meta over foreign disinformation: The European Commission opened an investigation into Meta’s Facebook and Instagram over concerns that the platforms are failing to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act to employ sufficient safeguards to combat foreign influence campaigns and misleading political advertising that could amplify division ahead of June’s European Parliament elections. Research Analyst Etienne Soula told the Dispatch, “In recent years, social media companies have rolled back teams and initiatives dedicated to combating state-sponsored information manipulation on their platforms. It is encouraging to see the EU use its recently passed legislation to signal that these companies need to step up. It might be too late for those actions to tangibly impact the big elections coming up in 2024 but they will hopefully lay the groundwork for a more resilient online information space in the long run.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The Chinese Communist Party has strengthened efforts to harvest data collected by Chinese technology firms, including Temu, to tailor its online influence campaigns to target audiences abroad, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
  • An Iranian intelligence-linked hacking group has impersonated prominent news organizations and Washington, DC-based think tanks to target journalists and researchers online as part of an espionage campaign, according to Mandiant and Google Cloud.
  • US intelligence agencies must report hacking threats to US critical infrastructure networks with businesses that operate relevant systems, according to a new federal rule.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that banning TikTok in the EU is a possible option during a debate in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
  • A former Belgian prime minister and member of the European Parliament was a victim of a PRC-linked espionage campaign targeting an international coalition of lawmakers critical of Beijing.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“I would really like to take a moment to recognize all the print journalists in this room. Your words speak truth to power. Your words bring light to the darkness. And most importantly, your words train the [artificial intelligence (AI)] programs that will soon replace you.”

—American comedian and writer Colin Jost during remarks at the 2024 White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 27.



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