The internet and social media pose an unprecedented threat to Australia’s democratic systems and an urgent response is needed to safeguard against attacks, according to a new report. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report drew on case studies from the US and found technology had enabled malicious foreign forces to potentially influence elections on a “scale and scope previously unseen”. “Two critical elements of the democratic process are under assault,” said the report’s author, Zoe Hawkins. “The security of our election infrastructure — think hacked voting machines — and the integrity of our public debates — think fake news.
“The technical vulnerabilities of elections is an increasingly attractive target for malicious actors as systems become increasingly digital.”
ASPI’s report, Securing Democracy in the Digital Age, focuses heavily on the recent US presidential election and Russian influence.
It found that in the days just before the 2016 election, Facebook users’ engagement with fake news actually surpassed engagement with mainstream news.