Securing Democracy Dispatch

2019-06-04T17:05:00-04:00
June 4, 2019
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Our Take

Insight into the state of political affairs in Europe: ASD Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina appeared on Euronews’ Raw Politics to discuss the fallout from the recent Austrian political scandal and the latest developments related to the European Council Summit. Berzina highlighted the risks that working with far-right parties pose to more centrist parties in Europe.

Russia’s strategic goals for the 2020 election: In the 2020 election cycle, Russia will focus on highlighting American-made political content rather than creating its own, ASD Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts argued in an op-ed for the Daily Beast.

Threats to the U.S. election system: ASD Co-director Laura Rosenberger sat down with Lulu Garcia-Navarro of NPR’s Weekend Edition to discuss threats to U.S. elections, including social media manipulation, cyberattacks and malign financial tools. Rosenberger emphasized the need to foster bipartisan cooperation ahead of 2020.

News and Commentary

Florida lawmakers denied cyber security officials funding to protect elections: New reporting shows that Florida’s secretaries of state were twice denied funding to create a cybersecurity team by state lawmakers. The revelation comes only a month after confirmation that Russian hackers successfully tapped into the voter registration files of two Florida counties in 2016. ASD’s David Salvo and Joshua Kirschenbaum have argued that Congress should act to make more federal resources available to states to help bolster election security ahead of the 2020 election. (Tampa Bay Times, Politico, ASD)

Facebook, Twitter remove inauthentic accounts linked to Iran: Last week, Facebook and Twitter took down a network of inauthentic accounts that originated in Iran. The accounts reportedly impersonated American citizens on both sides of the political spectrum as well as news organizations and journalists, echoing tactics used by the Russian Internet Research Agency. According to cybersecurity firm FireEye, several accounts impersonated candidates in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, while others successfully published guest columns and letters in legitimate U.S. and Israeli news outlets. The takedowns come just weeks after reports revealed a similar Iran-based information operation that published inaccurate articles on websites designed to mimic the sites of major online news outlets. ASD’s Bradley Hanlon has detailed the various ways in which Iran’s information operations have grown more sophisticated, enabling regime to further build its capacity for computational propaganda campaigns. (Wired, FireEye, Citizen Lab, ASD)

Debates over content regulation re-emerge amidst Pelosi video controversy: Altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which circulated on Facebook last week, has brought renewed attention to debates over regulating online content. ASD Director Laura Rosenberger has testified that online information operations are best understood not as a content problem, but rather as the deliberate manipulation of the information space by actors with malicious intent engaging in deceptive behavior. (Washington Post, ASD)

In other news:

  • Microsoft and Facebook pledged to increase efforts to combat disinformation ahead of the upcoming Canadian elections.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Google, while Amazon is also under closer watch by the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Facebook groups in the UK were targets of disinformation in the lead up to the May European Parliament elections, according to BBC investigative reporting.
  • American telecommunications companies in rural areas are being forced to scale down their service expansion plans, as a result of the ban on Huawei technology.
  • The head of Germany’s conservative party is accused of calling for censorship of the internet in the lead up to the May elections.
  • Vladimir Putin gave a speech describing Russia’s development of its AI infrastructure and calling for “technological sovereignty.”
  • The UK pledged to fund a £10m program that administers grants to fact-checking organizations and media outlets attempting to expose fake news. 
  • Indonesian police arrested a legislative candidate for the National Mandate Party for spreading false information on Twitter.

Quote of the Week

“There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election and that requires the attention of every American.”

Robert Mueller in a press conference at the Department of Justice, May 29, 2019

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