Dispatch (September 16th) from the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Our Take
Chinese information operations are a significant, growing threat to Western democracies, as well as social media platforms that remain vulnerable to manipulation by foreign actors seeking to interfere in democratic debate, argued Co-Directors Zack Cooper and Laura Rosenberger in the Washington Post.

It is very likely that narratives promoted by Russia Today are seeping into the Australian information environment through social media channels, Media and Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Any news source or app used in China must abide by the Chinese Communist Party’s selective presentation of reality, said China Analyst Matthew Schrader to the Washington Post.

In assigning portfolios crucial to fighting authoritarian interference, the new European Commission emphasized representation of regional stakeholders, observed Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina on Euronews’ Raw Politics.

News and Commentary

Local officials prepare for election interference in 2020: Over the past two years, more than a dozen states have held election hacking war games for county officials, many with help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Director Laura Rosenberger has called for increased coordination between all levels of government and agencies in responding to foreign interference to close similar gaps in electoral infrastructure exploited by Russia in 2016. (Washington Post, Just Security)

European Commission’s competition chief will also take charge of digital policy: Last week, Margrethe Vestager was appointed the European Commission’s digital czar, giving her the authority to advance new rules on company behavior, including how they collect, use, and store users’ data, as well as protect themselves against cyber-attacks. In addition to her responsibilities overseeing antitrust competition, Vestager will be in charge of revamping how the European Union regulates the digital sphere and deals with efforts by large tech companies to branch out into other sectors, including cryptocurrency. ASD’s Kristine Berzina, Nad’a Kovalcikova, David Salvo, and Etienne Soula have highlighted the need for European institutions to work together with platforms to protect user data and counter cyber-attacks. (Politico, The New York Times, ASD)

In Other News

● The Hewlett Foundation and Microsoft will launch a new nonprofit organization to investigate large scale cyber-attacks and provide tools to victims that help them build resilience.

● Cybersecurity firm Dragos found new evidence that Russian hackers intended to inflict lasting physical damage to the Ukrainian power grid in 2016.

● California could become the largest state to pass a law prohibiting the use of facial recognition technology used by law enforcement.

● China is exporting its advanced facial recognition and surveillance technology to Central Asia with software that enables automated policing.

● The mass demonstration on Hong Kong Island this weekend turned violent when protesters and journalists were attacked by police outside the Central Government Complex.

● The British opposition party criticized the U.K. government for reportedly harvesting user data and secretly collecting user information.

● Switzerland warned Facebook that its proposed cryptocurrency system may be subject to stricter regulations, and the French and German governments expressed that they will try to stop the development of Libra within Europe.

● The government of Canada identified social media accounts spreading disinformation in the lead-up to the Alberta election, mimicking the online tactics deployed in other cases of foreign interference.