Dispatch (August 26th) from the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Our Take

Beijing’s use of English-language inauthentic social media accounts demonstrates its desire to manipulate the flow of information outside its bordersargued Director Laura Rosenberger to the Washington Post.

Using fake social media posts on Twitter and Facebook, China attempted to internationally discredit Hong Kong protestors demanding democratic reforms and government accountability, China Analyst Matt Schrader told WAMU 88.5, Australia’s ABC News and Voice of America.

The takedowns represent the first time Western social media companies have attributed coordinated, inauthentic online activity to Beijing, wrote Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt in Axios.

The G-7 summit in France provides an opportunity for member countries to augment their enforcement activities against malign foreign political financing,argued Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph and Adam Kline on ASD’s blog, Interference Matters.

Director Laura Rosenberger will join a panel discussion on the Laws of War in Cyberspace on Wednesday, September 25th at 7 pm at the National Cathedral in Washington to discuss the future of war in cyberspace. Tickets are available here.

News and Commentary

Twitter, Facebook, Google take down accounts spreading disinformation about Hong Kong protests: Last week, TwitterFacebook, and Google announced the takedown of inauthentic accounts, pages, channels, and groups targeting the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Twitter and Facebook reported that the accounts originated in mainland China and were part of a PRC state-backed information operation to influence perceptions of the protests. Recent reporting has revealed that some of the English-language Twitter accounts have been created and previously controlled by Western businesses and students, indicating that they may have been sold or stolen. Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt and Research Assistant Brad Hanlon have stressed the need for greater cross platform coordination in countering foreign influence campaigns, specifically by identifying standards for addressing disinformation and inauthentic behavior online. (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Washington Post, BBC, CNN, Lawfare) 

Twitter updates its advertising policies on state media: Following its disclosure of the significant Chinese state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, Twitter announced that it would no longer accept advertisements from state-controlled news media entities. Facebook and YouTube have yet to announce policy changes that address ad placements by state-backed organizations, such as those seeking to discredit the protests in Hong Kong or cast doubt on human rights violations connected to China’s mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Director Laura Rosenberger has outlined how Russia utilized paid advertising in 2016 to manipulate the information space and urged tech companies to close vulnerabilities that allow authoritarian actors to dictate the conversation online through the use of political ads. (Twitter, The Verge, Gizmodo, Buzzfeed News, ASD)

In other news:

● The bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission will issue recommendations on defending the United States from cyberattacks early next year.

● The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency released its Strategic Intent document that outlines a new collaborative, results-oriented approach to thwarting Chinese threats to the rollout of 5G networks and bolstering election security efforts.

● At least $235 million in ad revenue is generated by running misleading or extremist content on disinformation websites, according to a new study by the Global Disinformation Index.

● President Trump called for Russia to rejoin the G7; President Macron argued that Russia cannot rejoin until the conflict in the Ukraine has been resolved.

● Italy’s Prime Minister resigned over a dispute with his deputy Matteo Salvini, leaving power in the hands of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.