Our Take

When political leadership casts doubt on the integrity of democratic institutions, particularly without any evidence, it is extremely damaging to the function of those institutions, Director Laura Rosenberger said in an interview with The Washington Post.

For a long time, Russian official media channels have been promoting divisions within the Democratic Party, Head of Research and Policy Jessica Brandt told Reuters. She also said to “Background Briefing” that the United States needs to take politics out of its efforts to unmask and respond to interference operations.

Voters can help minimize the effectiveness of foreign interference and disinformation in elections by relying on trusted news outlets and local officials, Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson told Carolina Public Press.

Social media companies are reacting to instances of manipulated content on the fly, making policy in real time, Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told Agence France-Presse.

Both China and Russia are using the coronavirus epidemic as an opportunity to paint Western countries, particularly the United States, as racist and hypocritical, Research Assistant Amber Frankland and China Analyst Matthew Schrader argued in an ASD blog post.

Germany’s deepening trade ties with China are making it more difficult for Europe’s first economy to stand up to the world’s largest authoritarian state, Research Assistant Etienne Soula and Trainee Christian Lenz asserted on ASD’s blog.

News and Commentary

U.S. intelligence officials raise concerns that their latest findings about Russian election interference in 2020 are being distorted for political gain by both sides: Current and former intelligence officials expressed concerns about the potential distortion of findings that Russia is meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections. The distortion of this intelligence — which was shared with House lawmakers in a classified briefing earlier this month — is worrisome because it may prevent the public from fully appreciating the threat, officials said. At last week’s Democratic primary debate, some candidates attempted to score political points against Senator Sanders by drawing attention to claims that Russia is interfering to aid his campaign. Meanwhile, several administration officials have denied the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russians are taking steps to assist President Trump’s reelection. Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt has argued that partisanship creates an environment ripe for disinformation to spread and hinders effective responses to it. (NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Twitter)

State election officials prepare for Super Tuesday voting: Election officials across the country are implementing new systems and defenses to strengthen their electoral infrastructure ahead of primary voting. For instance, some of California’s largest counties are rolling out sweeping new balloting procedures, which include eliminating neighborhood polling places to expand mail-in balloting and extend early in-person voting. Ahead of its primary, South Carolina also trained local and county officials on how to manage potential hacking on Election Day, and set up a war room to monitor social media for online disinformation. Minnesota hired a new “cybernavigator,” and North Carolina is now using paper ballots statewide. Still, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, roughly half of Americans say they are highly concerned that voting systems might be vulnerable to hackers and election results may be tampered with. Fellow for Elections Integrity David Levine has outlined low-cost steps states can take to secure their election systems, including by bolstering cybersecurity expertise in their offices, and testing changes to infrastructure in low-risk settings, among others. (Reuters, The Washington Post, Star Tribune, The News & Observer, AP-NORC, Associated Press, ASD)

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

News about the coronavirus continued to dominate the Russian media ecosystem, according to data collected by ASD experts last week. Less prominent topics with notable narrative pushes included coverage of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing, which was characterized as an injustice, and new reports of Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. election, which were dismissed.

In other news…

  • Facebook announced that it will provide users with a method for tracking political sponsored content on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
  • Last week, the Pentagon released a new set of principles for deploying and using artificial intelligence systems.
  • Iran-linked hackers have been targeting governmental organizations in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq with spear phishing campaigns, likely for intelligence gathering purposes, according to new research by Dell Secureworks.
  • Senate lawmakers unanimously approved legislation banning the use of federal funds for the purchase of telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies, such as Huawei.
  • The Federal Communications Commission will now collect data from U.S. carriers that use network gear from Huawei and ZTE, helping reimburse smaller carriers for replacing Chinese equipment.
  • Huawei Chairman Liang Hua announced that the company will build its first European manufacturing plant in France.
  • The Director of Australia’s Security Intelligence Organization warned that the country is facing an “unprecedented” threat of foreign espionage and interference.
  • Clearview AI, the facial recognition company contracted by thousands of government agencies, retailers, and organizations around the world, reported that an intruder gained “unauthorized access” to its entire client list.

Quote of the Week

“The United States, together with our allies and partners, must accelerate the adoption of AI and lead in its national security applications to maintain our strategic position, prevail on future battlefields, and safeguard the rules-based international order.”

  • Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said when rolling out new principles to govern the Department’s use of artificial intelligence (February 24, 2020)
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.