The Alliance for Securing Democracy is hiring: We are looking for a Research Assistant to help us in our work researching and tracking developments in foreign state actors’ efforts to undermine democratic institutions. Knowledge of the tech sector and social media industry is desirable, as is proficiency in Russian, Chinese, or a European language. The position is based in Washington, DC. Please click here to apply.

Our Take

The arrest of two Soviet-born emigres charged with violating campaign finance laws demonstrates the need for the US government to address foreign interference with a holistic national security framework, argued Fellow for Malign Finance Joshua Rudolph in Just Security.

Censorship is a prerequisite for gaining access to China’s market, noted China Analyst Matthew Schrader in the Associated Press.

TikTok has the potential to be a powerful tool for the Chinese Communist Party to censor information and manipulate discourse outside China, said Schrader in the Nikkei Asian Review.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is politically sensitive as it fractures Europe strategically between the interests of Germany and the interests of other countries, explained Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina in The New York Times.

The increasing use of hybrid warfare tactics raises questions about how to protect citizens online, argued Berzina in a panel discussion on Debating Europe.

Nevada’s blockchain leadership can shape national development of the technology while also safeguarding democratic values, wrote Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Huawei’s offer to license its technology to a US company raises concerns about the values Huawei would export along with its technology, cautioned Gorman in the South China Morning Post

Foreign actors spreading disinformation online only need to turn up the volume on ongoing conversations, making extreme talking points more mainstream to achieve influence, Fellow for Media and Digital Disinformation Bret Schafer told NPR’s All Things Considered.

News and Commentary

Senate Intel Committee releases report on Russia’s use of social media in 2016: Last week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report on Russia’s use of social media to interfere in the 2016 election that confirmed findings from previous investigations but offered new details on the Internet Research Agency’s (IRA) activities on various online platforms. Notably, the Committee found that the IRA’s engagement with Americans through Instagram accounts “dramatically eclipsed the comparable interaction achieved through Facebook pages,” while Reddit was also used as a “test” platform where the Russians could monitor how the public would engage with disinformation before extending its influence campaigns to other platforms. Director Laura Rosenberger’s testimony before the Committee on “Foreign Influence Operations and the Use of Social Media Platforms” was cited throughout the report, which detailed how the Russian government and its proxies infiltrated nearly every social media and online platform in carrying out its 2016 campaign. (Washington Post, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Politico, ASD)

Beijing applies pressure to American businesses supporting Hong Kong protestors: The Chinese government is wielding its market power to apply pressure on Western businesses that have expressed support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. American companies such as Tiffany & Co., which relies heavily on the Chinese market for revenue growth, took down a global advertising image that was perceived by some in China as backing the protest movement. Similarly, Blizzard Entertainment, the California based video-game company, suspended a player for reportedly supporting the liberation of Hong Kong in a recent interview. China Analyst Matthew Schrader argued that Beijing’s strong market and trading relationships allows it to extend its reach into every sector, in every country; this creates a difficult collective action problem when countering China’s use of its economic power to induce self-censorship abroad. (Washington Post, Twitter)

European Commission releases risk assessment report on 5G technology: The European Union warned member states in a new advisory report that 5G technology will significantly increase their vulnerability to cyber-attacks. The report noted that non-EU states or state-backed actors are considered the most serious threat, but stopped short of endorsing a ban on the Chinese 5G provider Huawei—a move the United States has repeatedly recommended to its European allies in recent weeks. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina reinforced the importance of the report’s national security framing of 5G, but problematized its failure to acknowledge specific state actors’ development of such technology. (European Commission, New York Times, Twitter)

In other news

  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for a review of the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok, arguing that the platform’s moderators are censoring content to appease Beijing.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a national strategy detailing plans for developing artificial intelligence through 2030.
  • Twitter revealed that it utilized data collected for its two-factor authentication to target advertisements to Twitter users.
  • Western security officials concluded that many of the malign operations related to the destabilization of European countries are part of a well-planned campaign by the Russian military intelligence agency.
  • The European Union is considering ways to tighten regulations for agencies to counter the flow of malign finance into the region’s banks and economic sectors.

Quote of the Week

“Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election. Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans. While Russia may have been the first to hone the modern disinformation tactics outlined in this report, other adversaries, including China, North Korea, and Iran, are following suit.”

– Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) on the new report detailing Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election (October 8, 2019)

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