Securing Democracy Dispatch

2019-02-04T17:02:58-04:00
January 29, 2019
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Our Take

ASD Senior Fellow Joshua Kirschenbaum spoke with ProPublica about the slow pace of reform in anti-money laundering enforcement for hedge funds, noting that: “It’s the kind of thing that should have taken two to three years, not 17.” Kirschenbaum will testify on January 29 before the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance at a hearing on money laundering cases involving Russian individuals and their effect on the EU.

News and Commentary

Tech companies grapple with threat of disinformation as elections approach: Following the removal of two information operations from its platform this month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg outlined a five-step plan last week to counter disinformation on the site. The plan includes steps like investing in safety and security, increasing transparency, and cracking down on fake accounts. Facebook also announced that, ahead of upcoming European parliament elections, it is establishing an elections hub in Ireland and changing advertising policies to require stricter verification and more transparency for political ads in the EU. Meanwhile, YouTube is also taking steps to reduce the spread of false information, announcing that it is adjusting its recommendations algorithm to “promote fewer videos containing misinformation and conspiracy theories.” In the past, researchers have criticized YouTube for the harmful role that its recommendation feature plays in spreading misinformation and extremist content. (TechCrunch, Financial Times, The Verge, Medium, The Washington Post)

U.S., EU authorities crack down on money laundering as EU members struggle with “Golden Visa” programs: Bloomberg revealed that the U.S. Federal Reserve has launched a probe into Deutsche Bank’s U.S. operations to determine whether it properly monitored hundreds of billions of dollars in suspicious transactions that may be linked to a Russian money-laundering scandal. The European Parliament also plans to question the bank’s anti-money laundering officer Stephan Wilken on February 4 concerning the scandal. Concurrently, the EU is attempting to crack down on so-called “golden visas,” which grant residency rights or citizenship to foreigners who pay a fee or make significant investments in a country. Malta and Cyprus face special scrutiny because they sell citizenship, but seven other European countries offer investor visas, many of which include a fast track to permanent residency. A European Commission action plan for combating the abuse of such programs received criticism for doing little to reduce risks. (Bloomberg, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Economist, European Parliament, European Commission)

Chinese tech faces growing backlash in the West: The New York Times reported that President Trump has requested that U.S. allies ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei from developing 5G networks in their countries, and that the administration is drafting an executive order to ban U.S. companies from using “Chinese-origin equipment in critical telecommunications networks.” U.S. and Polish officials are also investigating the “deep ties Beijing has forged [in Poland]” through companies like Huawei following the arrest of a Huawei executive and a former Polish official for spying for China this month. Last week, Carnegie Endowment Fellow Steven Feldstein published a report warning about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to dominate the AI sector to implement foreign policy and domestic security objectives. (Carnegie Endowment, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times)

In Other News:

– Psychologists Gordon Pennycook and David Rand explore why people are susceptible to disinformation in social media.

– Former CIA officer John Sipher dispels the false equivalence between Western intelligence practices and Russian active measures in a piece for Just Security.

– Reuters reports that Russian private military contractors flew to Venezuela last week to provide security for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

– National security experts Joshua Geltzer and Jake Sullivan lay out the “norms to which all civilized nations should subscribe when it comes to respecting free and fair democratic processes in other countries.”

– The Wall Street Journal reports on Google’s “Threat Analysis Group” and its efforts to combat hackers and fight disinformation.

– DHS officials issued an emergency threat warning pushing federal agencies to tighten security protocols following a suspected Iranian hacking campaign.

– A new book by the Center for the Study of Democracy investigates Russia’s ability to leverage its economic presence to achieve strategic goals in Central and Eastern Europe.

– The New Yorker exposes how powerful and well-connected voting technology vendors influence the systems that states buy.

– Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey argues that good governance, economic freedom, and trust between the public, law enforcement, and intelligence services is the recipe to “defeat hybrid warfare before it starts.”

– The House Foreign Affairs Committee has reintroduced a bill that would establish a cyber diplomacy office at the State Department.

– A likely Russian hack recently targeted a British think tank that counters Russian influence operations.

Quote of the Week

“Despite growing awareness of cyber threats and improving cyber defenses, nearly all information, communication networks, and systems will be at risk for years to come. Our adversaries are becoming more adept at using cyberspace capabilities to threaten our interests and advance their own strategic and economic objectives.”

– Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Intelligence Strategy: 2019

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