Laura Rosenberger joined Voice of America to discuss strategies to counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Laura Rosenberger and Jamie Fly stressed the importance of securing our elections and countering authoritarian interference in American democracy on Congressman Joaquin Castro’s (TX-20) Diplomatic Cable podcast.
Bret Schafer published a new blog post where he explained: “The threat of electoral interference will continue long after the last ballot is cast.”
News and Commentary
Trump administration prepares responses to foreign interference in midterms: A senior Trump administration official confirmed that either a “foreign influence campaign” targeting the midterm elections or a foreign attack on election infrastructure would trigger the sanctions outlined in the Executive Order President Trump signed in September. The official did not define what would constitute an influence campaign. In the absence of a government-wide strategy to counter foreign interference, individual agencies have been developing measures to safeguard the midterms. For example, the U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon have agreed upon the framework for a retaliatory cyber-attack in the event that the Russian government interferes in the election. (The Hill, White House, Politico, The Daily Beast)
Confidence in election results could be shattered even without a hack of voting systems: The mere perception of interference may be enough to cast doubt on election results. Foreign trolls could spread rumors of hacking operations against voting systems, undermining Americans’ faith in the validity of the election results. A Pew Research Center poll revealed that 67 percent of Americans already believe it is likely foreign actors will try to influence the midterm elections. Only 45 percent are confident that election systems are secure from hacking. (The New York Times, ASD, Pew Research Center)
States do not take advantage of DHS vulnerability assessments: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched an initiative to provide free vulnerability assessments to state election officials. However, only 21 states have requested DHS assistance. According to ABC News consultant and former deputy undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, John Cohen, the assessments “would include identifying how the network is configured, what are the various nodes, what are the various ways in which it could be attacked.” (ABC News)
Vulnerabilities persist on social media ahead of midterm elections: According to a report by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University, there is more misleading political news on social media now than during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but measures by the social media platforms have not addressed all vulnerabilities foreign actors exploit. On October 30, Vice News revealed that it purchased fake ads on Facebook on behalf of all 100 sitting U.S. Senators, exposing holes in the company’s new advertising transparency tools. Additionally, Twitter’s new midterms information page, which launched last week and is intended to provide useful election news, is already surfacing tweets from known conspiracy theorists and disinformation campaigns. And while Twitter announced that it has deleted more than 10,000 automated accounts posting messages that discouraged people from voting in the midterms, the social media company only took action after the Democratic Party monitored, identified, and flagged the accounts. (Washington Post, VICE News, Buzzfeed News, Reuters)
In other news:
– The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged several individuals and Chinese and Taiwanese companies for trade-secret theft, and indicted ten Chinese intelligence officers for hacking a dozen American and European airplane manufacturers.
– The Trump administration is approaching a November 6 deadline to decide whether to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the U.K. earlier this year.
– CSIS published an Election Cybersecurity Scorecard, ranking Russia as the biggest cyber threat to U.S. elections with 81 percent of the vote, followed by China (10 percent) and Iran (2 percent).
– Former Goldman Sachs executive pleaded guilty to money laundering and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
– Estonia offers lessons for dealing with Russian spies.
– Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed the Consumer Data Privacy Act, inspired by Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR).
– Defense One reports that China is exporting its cyber surveillance to African Countries.
– Freedom House released a new report assessing global Internet freedom.
Hamilton 68 dashboard
Accounts tracked by the Hamilton 68 dashboard seized on key partisan issues ahead of the U.S. midterms. Early in the week, accounts promoted the “Blexit” movement encouraging black voters to leave the Democratic Party, spreading several articles that falsely claimed Kanye West designed merchandise for the movement. “Blexit” remained one of the top hashtags on the dashboard for the duration of the week. Pro-Kremlin accounts also sought to inflame the immigration debate by promoting articles falsely alleging that a second, heavily armed migrant caravan was headed towards the U.S. border.
Quote of the Week
“In the two years that have passed since the 2016 election, we have learned a lot about malignant disinformation campaigns in Western democracies…and yet we have learned nothing. For these same distorting techniques are still in operation. They will affect the midterm elections. They continue to shape political debate in many countries around the world.”
–Anne Applebaum, Columnist, Washington Post, November 2, 2018
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.