Dispatch (August 19th) from the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Our Take
The Kremlin’s operatives are adept at jumping on divisive narratives in the news cycle, with the goal of dividing Americans, noted Director Laura Rosenberger in the Washington Post.

The United States should pay greater attention to Russia’s use of economic coercion and malign financial influence to further its political objectives, suggested Director Laura Rosenberger on MSNBC.

Sophisticated psychological measures such as the auto-play feature are crucial for big tech in keeping viewers on their platforms, commented Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman on NPR.

The absence of a clear mandate or political will can hamper public institutions’ responses to Russian disinformation and hybrid threats, argued Global Fellow at the Kennan Institute Nina Jankowicz in an ASD policy brief.

The risk of collateral damage can impede U.S. efforts to sanction powerful Russian oligarchs, observed Senior Fellow on Malign Finance Josh Kirschenbaum in TIME.

The gradual break up of U.S.-China technological and economic relations threatens to cut global supply chains and interrupt data streams, Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told Handelsblatt.

2020 presidential campaigns require external assistance to fully address cybersecurity concerns, contended ASD Advisory Council Member Michael Morell in The Hill.

News and Commentary

China, Russia seek to discredit pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong: Following weeks of escalating violence between police and protestors, 1.7 million citizens peacefully protested in the streets of Hong Kong this weekend in support of broader democratic reform and government accountability. The Chinese Communist Party-affiliated media has portrayed the movement as a subversive plot by the United States to destabilize China and to discredit the demonstrators as foreign pawns. ASD has observed that Russian state media, such as RT and Sputnik, have hewed to Beijing’s line by casting the Hong Kong movement as violent and foreign-backed. (The Washington Post, BBC, Twitter)

Russia tied to rising far-right media in Sweden: An investigation by the New York Times implicates Russia as cultivating and amplifying far-right, anti-immigration narratives by providing funding and content to websites that espouse nationalist rhetoric. These active measures ahead of last year’s Swedish election mirror previous Russian influence campaigns aimed at exacerbating existing sociopolitical divisions, but include a new tactic of financially supporting at least six extremist websites in Sweden and additional nativist outlets elsewhere in Europe through advertising revenue from a Russian and Ukrainian-owned auto-parts business. Fellow on Malign Finance Josh Rudolph has argued that the new covert methods of nurturing extremist ecosystems should serve as a warning to western democracies of Russia’s evolving interference toolkit. (The New York Times, Wired, NBC News, Twitter)

In other news:

● Chinese telecom giant Huawei helped the Ugandan and Zambian governments spy on political opponents by intercepting their communications and using cell data to track them.

● This week the United States will extend a reprieve to Huawei permitting the Chinese firm to buy components from U.S. companies to supply existing customers.

● Election officials and security experts called for various election security reforms, including thorough post-election audits, additional resources, and paper ballots at the Las Vegas DEFCON cyber conference.

● Illinois officials are buying new voting machines and hiring cyber navigators to help identify and fix potential cybersecurity risks.

● A federal judge banned Georgia from using its current outdated electronic voting machines, requiring that it implement paper ballots before the 2020 election.

● YouTube’s algorithms empowered far-right extremists in Brazil and facilitated the spread of health misinformation, according to an investigation by the New York Times

● Facebook announced that it will use artificial intelligence and trained content reviewers to proactively moderate content in private and public groups.