Our Take

Beijing is interested in weakening democratic institutions in order to remake them in a way that is advantageous to China, explained Director Laura Rosenberger at the Atlantic Council’s Global Forum on Strategic Communications 2019.

China has been increasingly assertive in its use of economic coercion and disinformation campaigns to interfere abroad, China Analyst Matt Schrader told Deutsche Welle.

While it may seem like foreign adversaries favor one political candidate over another, that can change overnight depending on how their geopolitical interests evolve, warned Fellow for Media and Digital Disinformation Bret Schafer on Denver’s 630KHOW.

As the tools of foreign influence skyrocket, democracies must be careful to keep questions about the ethical use of personal data front and center, argued Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman in the Washington Post.  

News and Commentary

Facebook removes accounts linked to Iran, Russia for coordinated inauthentic behavior: Last Monday, Facebook disclosed that it removed four separate networks of accounts, originating in Iran and Russia, for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. One campaign, linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), targeted the upcoming presidential election. Many of the posts were focused on polarizing political issues, echoing the tactics used by the IRA during its 2016 electoral interference campaign. On the same day, Facebook announced that it will label content originating from state-controlled media outlets. Non-resident Fellow Clint Watts has written about threats posed by Advanced Persistent Manipulators, such as the IRA, stressing the need for a systematic approach to detect the technical and human characteristics of repeat network intruders. (The Guardian, Facebook, ASD)

Bipartisan bill to outlaw anonymous shell companies passes in the House, advances to the Senate: The Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, a bill that would outlaw anonymous shell companies, passed in the House last Tuesday on a bipartisan vote. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Banking Committee. Anonymous shell companies, which pose long-standing economic and security threats, can also be used to hide illegal foreign funding in U.S. elections. Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph has argued that the bipartisan effort to address the use of corporate structures to facilitate malign activities offers an example of Congress working exactly as it is supposed to. (Congress.gov, The American Interest)

Czech authorities reveal new information about Russian espionage activities: The Czech Security Information Service announced that a Russian espionage network, which was discovered and dismantled last year, was meant to commit large-scale cyber-attacks against the Czech Republic and its neighbors. The network was created by people with links to Russian intelligence services and financed by the Russian Embassy in Prague. Deputy Director David Salvo and former Fellow Brittany Beaulieu have outlined various measures NATO members can take to combat cyber-attacks, including coordinating with allies to ensure the optimal utilization of resources and expertise in combating asymmetric threats. (RFE/RL, Respekt, ASD)

In other news

  • Members of the German Parliament urged the Chancellor to ensure Huawei is not involved in the country’s 5G development, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to allow Huawei access to the “non-contentious” parts of its 5G network.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense announced that it will launch a new initiative to integrate commercial 5G technologies into its communications networks.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation released election security resources to help political campaigns better understand the methods being used by foreign adversaries and how to protect against them.
  • Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) expressed concerns about TikTok’s data-collection practices, asking U.S. intelligence officials to determine whether the Chinese-owned app poses “national security risks.”
  • Last week, lawmakers questioned CEO Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s policy on political advertising, disinformation, and its proposed cryptocurrency, Libra.
  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law legislation to increase cyber protections for election systems, including through post-election audits that ensure the accuracy of vote counts.

Quote of the Week

“Russian influence actors almost certainly will continue to target U.S. audiences with influence activities that seek to advance Russian interests, and probably view the 2020 presidential election as a key opportunity to do so.”

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