One of Russia’s goals is weakening democratic institutions through the weaponization of race, which helps to divide Americans, Director Laura Rosenberger told The New York Times.
Rosenberger also told Deep State Radio that clear messaging from the government about the threat of foreign interference can increase resilience.
The majority of coronavirus news coverage has consisted of basic updates on travel restrictions and economic impacts; a small portion has highlighted stories of racism and xenophobia in the West, or promoted themes seen in China’s state media coverage of the crisis, Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt argued in The Hill.
Tech companies are proactively countering disinformation about the coronavirus, illustrating how much can be accomplished with a strong will to act, Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said to NPR.
Local governments that operate websites without proper domain security are more vulnerable to hacking by a foreign adversary that might want to disrupt the 2020 elections, Fellow for Elections Integrity David Levine said in WisContext.
Facebook and Twitter take down Russian-linked accounts targeting racial divisions in the United States, operating out of West Africa: Last Thursday, Facebook and Twitter removed a network of Russian-linked fake accounts, some of which operated out of Ghana and Nigeria, that targeted U.S. audiences. According to CNN’s investigation, the accounts focused “almost exclusively on racial issues,” and attempted to sow societal discord using similar tactics employed by Russian trolls interfering in the 2016 election. Another technique appeared to be creating a non-governmental organization with real-world people working on the ground to build legitimacy for narratives promoted online. Both Facebook and Twitter found links between the individuals from this campaign and those associated with past activity by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which was responsible for much of the foreign trolling aimed at the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. This particular campaign, however, did not focus on political candidates or the upcoming election in November. Fellow for Media and Digital Disinformation Bret Schafer has demonstrated how Russian trolls have amplified corrosive voices to disrupt public discourse. Schafer has also argued that Russian trolls lurk on both sides of public debate to aggravate conflicts between African-Americans and the rest of the population. (The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, ASD, National Urban League)
Top law enforcement and intelligence officials brief lawmakers on election security, reportedly indicating they “have not concluded” that Russia favors any particular candidate: Top U.S. officials briefed House and Senate lawmakers on election threats last Tuesday, indicating in an unclassified summary of the brief that the intelligence community has not concluded that Russia is “directly aiding any candidate’s reelection or any other candidates’ election.” Three individuals familiar with the briefing said there were inconsistencies between the assessment and the one previously shared with the House Intelligence Committee in February where officials discussed Russia’s preference for President Trump’s reelection. The assertions from Tuesday’s briefing also differ from those the intelligence community previously shared with Senator Sanders, which indicated that the Kremlin is attempting to aid his campaign. At Tuesday’s briefing, the head of national counterintelligence did acknowledge that Russia is “broadly engaged in social media activities designed to divide us further, to discredit our electoral system and to disrupt our election.” Director Laura Rosenberger has warned of the dangers of politicizing intelligence about these threats, and underscored the need for clear and direct messaging from the federal government about efforts by foreign actors to undermine U.S. elections. (CBS, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS, Deep State Radio)
For the eighth consecutive week, the coronavirus was the predominant topic in the Russian media ecosystem. Most of the coverage consisted of basic news updates, but some articles highlighted criticisms of various Western responses to the pandemic. A small amount of coverage also addressed the U.S. presidential race, with an emphasis on divisive narratives in the Democratic primary. Finally, a couple of pieces dealt with the controversy surrounding the first application of Twitter’s new “manipulated media” label. Read more here.
“From deliberate attempts to undermine our elections to devastating cyber incidents targeting towns and cities, malicious actors have been emboldened by our lack of strong cybersecurity policy. It is time for a new strategy that will make our nation more resilient for years to come.”
- Legislative Commissioner on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission Jim Langevin (D-RI), said when rolling out the report (March 11, 2020)