election interference

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National: House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of House Democrats led by Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) on Tuesday introduced new legislation aimed at combating foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. The SHIELD Act would require campaigns to report “illicit offers” of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and also take steps to ensure that political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio. The bill classifies the “offering of non-public campaign material to foreign governments and those linked with foreign governments and their agents as an illegal solicitation of support,” while also closing gaps that allow foreign investment in aspects of U.S. elections. The bill is also sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), along with Reps. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). Lofgren in a statement heavily criticized President Trump and his administration for “welcoming” foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Full Article: House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference | TheHill.

National: Foreign interference is coming in the 2020 election whether Trump asks for it or not | Mark Porubcansky/MinnPost

Forget about China helping President Trump smear Joe Biden and his son. Or Ukraine doing so. Or any foreign country with reasonably sane leadership. Foreign interference in next year’s election, if it occurs, is likely to take a more familiar route. Here’s one possibility: Several countries, each with a lot at stake and all using Russia’s 2016 hacking and disinformation playbook, line up on opposite sides of the election. North Korea and Saudi Arabia, for instance, might trying to help Trump get re-elected while Iran tries to help his opponent. The Russians never really shut down, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller stressed in his testimony to Congress in July. China is highly capable, as well, and has a strong interest in who wins the election. Even if no one manages the 2020 equivalent of hacking the Democratic National Committee, they could sow doubt and disgust toward what’s already shaping up to be a very dirty campaign.

Full Article: Foreign interference is coming in the 2020 election whether Trump asks for it or not | MinnPost.

Russia: How Russian operatives also used Google to influence Americans in 2016 | Jeff Stone/CyberScoop

While Russian propagandists relied heavily on Facebook and Twitter to spread disinformation before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a new congressional report elaborates on how they also used Google and YouTube to sway Americans’ public opinion in favor of Donald Trump. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released a report detailing expansive, and ongoing, information warfare directed against American internet users. The 85-page explanation confirmed much of what was already known about Russian operations: a Kremlin-directed effort utilized an array of social media networks, with their targeted advertising capabilities, to provoke and confuse likely voters ahead of a contentious presidential election. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were the most crucial aspects of this effort, though Russia’s Internet Research Agency also leveraged Google and its subsidiaries for its own gain. “Periodically, particularly in the context of fast breaking news, Google’s algorithm can elevate extremist content or disinformation to the top of certain searches,” the Senate report said. “Days after the 2016 presidential election, a falsified media account of President-elect Donald Trump having won the popular vote briefly ranked higher than stories that accurately reflected the U.S. popular vote result.”

Full Article: How Russian operatives also used Google to influence Americans in 2016.

National: Former officials flag disinformation as top threat to U.S. elections | Derek B. Johnson/FCW

Two top former national security officials believe that disinformation campaigns may pose a greater long-term threat to election infrastructure than cybersecurity risks. “Securing the voting apparatus … that’s hugely important, but that to me at least is one bin of the problem,” said former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper while speaking at an Oct. 2 Washington Post event. “The other bin is what I would call, for lack of a better term, intellectual security, meaning how do you get people to question what they read, see and hear on the internet? And this where the Russians exploited our divisiveness by using social media, so that part of the problem I’m not sure about.” Clapper said that when it comes to protecting voting machines and other election infrastructure, agencies like the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency and others have “done a lot” since 2016.

Full Article: Former officials flag disinformation as top threat to U.S. elections -- FCW.

National: US Officials Not Taking Putin Election Comments Lightly | Jeff Seldin/VoA News

U.S. security officials are not laughing at the latest comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere in U.S. elections. Putin, speaking at an economic forum in Moscow Wednesday, dismissed U.S. allegations that Russia meddled in both the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the 2018 mid-term election as “ridiculous.” “Or it would be ridiculous if it was not that sorrowful, because all we see now in the U.S. domestic politics ruins Russia-U.S. relations, and I am sure it harms the United States itself, too,” Putin said. “I’m telling you as a secret – yes, we will definitely do it (meddle in next year’s U.S. presidential election) in order to deliver you the best of fun,” Putin joked with the audience. “Just don’t tell anyone.” Despite Putin’s comments, U.S. security and intelligence officials have said, consistently, that they have seen indications Russia will try to interfere with the upcoming 2020 presidential elections.

Full Article: US Officials Not Taking Putin Election Comments Lightly | Voice of America - English.

National: US diplomats told Zelenskiy that Trump visit was dependent on Biden statement | Julian Borger and Lauren Gambino/The Guardian

US diplomats told Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that a prestigious White House visit to meet Donald Trump was dependent on him making a public statement vowing to investigate Hunter Biden’s company, and a Ukrainian role in the 2016 elections, according to texts released on Thursday night. The texts, released by three congressional committees holding impeachment hearings, show that the diplomats made clear that any improvement in Kyiv’s relations with Washington would be dependent on Zelenskiy’s cooperation in Trump’s quest to find damaging material about son of his leading political opponent, and on the Democrats in general. In August, Zelenskiy’s government became aware, through a US press report, that military aid for its struggle with Russia, had been withheld by Trump, in an apparent effort to increase the pressure on the Ukrainian government. The texts are exchanges from July to early September between three US diplomats – Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, Kurt Volker, the then special envoy on Ukraine, and Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Kyiv. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and a Zelenskiy aide, Andrey Yermak, also make brief appearances in the correspondence.

Full Article: US diplomats told Zelenskiy that Trump visit was dependent on Biden statement | US news | The Guardian.

Editorials: Democrats Must Act Now to Deter Foreign Interference in the 2020 Election | Thomas Wright/The Atlantic

Democrats face a national-security problem without parallel in the annals of American democracy. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has made clear not only that he will remain passive in the face of foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. election—a threat his current and former directors of national intelligence have called the most serious facing the country—but also that he will actually solicit such interference if it serves his interests. We know of at least one case—when he asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden as a personal favor—but there may well be others. Parts of the U.S. government, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, as well as state authorities, are working to prevent foreign interference in American elections, but even with a Herculean effort, the country’s defenses against political warfare, especially in the cyber domain, are weak and porous. Such attacks are easy to execute, but difficult and expensive to thwart. The threat is evolving and will be different than it was in 2016. There are many targets.

Full Article: Democrats Can Stop Political Interference in 2020 - The Atlantic.

National: With Sanctions on Russians, U.S. Warns Against Foreign Election Meddling | Lara Jakes/The New York Times

The United States issued new economic sanctions on Monday against seven Russians linked to an internet troll factory in what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called a warning to foreigners who seek to interfere in American elections. The penalties were announced as Congress is investigating whether President Trump tried to enlist Ukraine’s leader in a political smear campaign against one of his top Democratic challengers in 2020, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “We have been clear: We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections,” Mr. Pompeo said in a sharp statement. “The United States will continue to push back against malign actors who seek to subvert our democratic processes,” Mr. Pompeo continued, “and we will not hesitate to impose further costs on Russia for its destabilizing and unacceptable activities.” The Treasury Department said the sanctions sought to punish attempts to influence the 2018 midterm elections, in which Democrats won control of the House. Early last year, the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians and companies linked to the Internet Research Agency on charges of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Full Article: With Sanctions on Russians, U.S. Warns Against Foreign Election Meddling - The New York Times.

National: Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election | Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima/The Washington Post

President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him. A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. The White House’s classification of records about Trump’s communications with foreign officials is now a central part of the impeachment inquiry launched this week by House Democrats. An intelligence community whistleblower has alleged that the White House placed a record of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, in which he offered U.S. assistance investigating his political opponents, into a code-word classified system reserved for the most sensitive intelligence information.

Full Article: Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election - The Washington Post.

Canada: ‘It’ll be something new’: Canadian election interference likely in unexpected places | Penny Daflos/CTV

The upcoming Canadian election is the first test for new laws and social media policies, and while online activity suggests they’re being effective in curbing disinformation, experts are already warning that those seeking to manipulate the election or create chaos among voters have moved on to new tactics. Analysis from Twitter, Facebook and academics suggests that malicious, manufactured and “fake news” content is not as widespread as in previous years, largely due to efforts to zero in on and remove that kind of material as quickly as possible. SFU public communication professor Ahmed Al-Rawi is one of many academics across the country scrutinizing online activity for signs of foreign or domestic interference; he hasn’t found any. “I’ve downloaded over a million tweets and analyzed the ‘canpoli’ hashtag and I could not find any large activity of bots (automated re-tweeting accounts),” said Al-Rawi, who is continuing to assess those tweets throughout the campaign.

Full Article: 'It'll be something new': Canadian election interference likely in unexpected places | CTV News.

China: Beijing’s Online Manipulation and Interference During the Election | Marcus Kolga/Epoch Times

Over the past three years, a growing din of alarm bells have warned us about the threat of Russian foreign influence campaigns against our elections, our media, and our democracy. Other malign totalitarian regimes have engaged in similar operations to manipulate our perceptions in efforts to polarize debate and divide us. China is no exception. Over the past weeks, a massive “state-backed information operation” targeting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and activists was detected and exposed by major social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Twitter identified some 200,000 accounts, many of which “were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.” According to Twitter’s research, most of the accounts and their subversive activity has been “state-backed.” Based on a tip from Twitter, Facebook suspended several China-based accounts, groups, and pages that exposed thousands of Facebook users to disinformation aimed at undermining support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Full Article: Beijing’s Online Manipulation and Interference During the Election.

National: Democrats seize on whistleblower report to push for election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Democrats renewed their push for election security legislation after a stark warning from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the release of a whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader. Maguire on Thursday warned that the “greatest challenge” the U.S. is facing is “maintaining the integrity of our election system” and said “there are foreign powers that are trying to get us to question the validity of whether or not our elections are valid. “The intelligence official made the comment during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday about a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump tried to persuade Ukraine to mount a corruption investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Democrats also highlighted a section in the whistleblower complaint that Trump’s actions could pose “risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government’s efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.” The two events have bolstered the need for election security legislation, these Democrats argued, not long after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report highlighted Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. “The President again, just [as] he did in 2016, sought out assistance from a foreign power to help in his reelection,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement on Thursday. “This is election interference, plain and simple. The President has continually and persistently undermined the integrity of our elections and our democracy.”

Full Article: Democrats seize on whistleblower report to push for election security | TheHill.

Canada: Russia could meddle in Canada’s election due to ‘growing interest’ in Arctic: report | Mike Blanchfield/The Canadian Press

A new University of Calgary study is predicting Russian interference in the federal election campaign to serve what it describes as the Kremlin’s long-term interest of competing against Canada in the Arctic. The study’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said in an interview that Moscow’s ability to inflict serious damage is relatively low because Canadian society is not as divided as countries targeted in past elections, including the United States presidential ballot and Britain’s Brexit referendum in 2016, as well as various attacks on Ukraine and the Baltic states. “The Kremlin has a growing interest in dominating the Arctic, where it sees Russia as in competition with Canada. This means Canada can anticipate escalations in information warfare, particularly from hacktivists fomenting cyber-attacks,” writes Sukhankin, a senior fellow with the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. think-tank, who is teaching at the University of Calgary.

Full Article: Russia could meddle in Canada’s election due to ‘growing interest’ in Arctic: report | Globalnews.ca.

Russia: CIA source pulled from Russia had confirmed Putin ordered 2016 meddling | Zack Budryk/The Hill

A CIA asset reportedly pulled from Russia in 2017 played a major role in the agency’s determination that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to The New York Times. The informant, while not in Putin’s inner circle, interacted with him regularly and was privy to decisionmaking at high levels of the Russian government, according to the Times. Information on the informant’s identity was so carefully guarded that it was kept out of then-President Obama’s daily security briefings in 2016, instead transmitted in separate sealed envelopes. In 2016, high-level CIA officials ordered a full review of the source’s record and grew suspicious he might have become a double agent after he rejected an offer of exfiltration from the agency, according to the Times. Other officials said these concerns were alleviated when the source was offered a second time and accepted.

Full Article: CIA source pulled from Russia had confirmed Putin ordered 2016 meddling: NY Times | TheHill.

National: Big Tech Companies Meeting With U.S. Officials on 2020 Election Security | Mike Isaac and Davey Alba/The New York Times

Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft met with government officials in Silicon Valley on Wednesday to discuss and coordinate on how best to help secure the 2020 American election, kicking off what is likely to be a marathon effort to prevent the kind of foreign interference that roiled the 2016 election. The daylong meeting, held at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., included security teams from the tech companies, as well as members of the F.B.I., the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security. The agenda was to build up discussions and strategic collaboration ahead of the November 2020 state, federal and presidential elections, according to Facebook. Tech company representatives and government officials talked about potential threats, as well as how to better share information and detect threats, the social network said. Chief executives from the companies did not attend, said a person briefed on the meeting, who declined to be identified for confidentiality reasons.

Full Article: Big Tech Companies Meeting With U.S. Officials on 2020 Election Security - The New York Times.

Russia: Anger over alleged Moscow election tampering spurs protest | Nataliya Vasilyeva/Associated Press

Thousands of people marched across central Moscow on Saturday to protest the exclusion of some city council candidates from the Russian capital’s local election, but did not result in riot police making mass arrests and giving beatings like at earlier demonstrations. Opposition-led protests erupted in Moscow this summer after election officials barred more than a dozen opposition and independent candidates from running in the Sept. 8 election for the Moscow city legislature. Some marchers on Saturday held placards demanding freedom for political prisoners: 14 people arrested in earlier protests face charges that could send them to prison for up to eight years. The only police seen along the route to Pushkin Square were traffic officers, a contrast to the previous unsanctioned demonstrations where phalanxes of helmeted, truncheon-wielding riot police confronted demonstrators. At earlier protests, authorities did not allow key opposition figures to get anywhere near the places they were held. Individuals were detained outside their homes and sent them to jail for calling for an unpermitted protest. This time, the protest leaders attended the gathering unhindered.

Full Article: Anger over alleged Moscow election tampering spurs protest - The Boston Globe.

Canada: Unlike U.S., Canada plans coordinated attack on foreign election interference | Alexander Panetta and Mark Scott/Politico

Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election rattled America’s next-door neighbor so badly that Canada spent the last three years developing the most detailed plan anywhere in the Western world to combat foreign meddling in its upcoming election. But with the country’s national campaign to begin in a matter of weeks, one question remains: Will the efforts pay off? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government passed new transparency rules last year for online political ads that run on platforms including Facebook and Twitter — further than what’s required in the U.S. It ordered the country’s usually tight-lipped intelligence services to go public about foreign threats. Canada also housed a G-7 project to share the latest intelligence between allies about possible foreign disinformation and created a non-partisan group to warn political parties and the public about outside interference. “The way the Canadians have responded to the problem of technology and democracy is much more impressive than what we’ve seen in Washington,” said Ben Scott, a former Hillary Clinton official, now based in Toronto, who has tracked disinformation campaigns in elections across the West. “Pound for pound, Canada is way ahead of the U.S. in terms of policy development on these issues.”

Full Article: Unlike U.S., Canada plans coordinated attack on foreign election interference - POLITICO.

National: Report highlights Instagram, deepfake videos as key disinformation threats in 2020 elections | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Instagram will likely be the main social media platform used to disseminate disinformation during the 2020 election, while altered “deepfake” videos of candidates will pose a threat as well, according to a report out on Wednesday.  The report on disinformation tactics during the 2020 election, put together by New York University’s (NYU) Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, also pinpointed China, Russia, and Iran as countries likely to launch such attacks against the U.S. in the lead up to the elections. But foreign states will not be alone, with NYU finding that domestic sources of disinformation, such as users within the U.S. creating and circulating it, will be more prevalent than overseas ones. Voter suppression will be the main target of both streams of disinformation, with the report warning that “unwitting Americans” could also be manipulated into participating in rallies and protests. The report from NYU emphasized that while “social media companies are playing better defense than they did in 2016,” it called on them “to step up their games in anticipation of 2020.”

Full Article: Report highlights Instagram, deepfake videos as key disinformation threats in 2020 elections | TheHill.

Maryland: Maryland was never in play in 2016. The Russians targeted it anyway. | Dana Priest/The Washington Post

Russia’s Twitter campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election in Maryland began in June 2015, 17 months before Election Day, when the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency opened an account it called @BaltimoreOnline and began tweeting about local news events. Its third tweet was a retweet of a WBAL-TV story about a 5-year-old boy who’d shot himself in the foot in an alley on North Mount Street, the same street where 11 blocks away Freddie Gray encountered police who loaded him into a police van for a race across the city that left him fatally injured. The tweet fit neatly into what would become a pattern for Russian activities in Maryland, a solidly Democratic state that hadn’t favored a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 and wasn’t in play in 2016. Yet, the IRA, the Russian troll factory U.S. prosecutors blame for the massive disinformation campaign during the 2016 campaign, devoted enormous attention and preparation to its Maryland campaign, all in a likely effort, experts say, to widen racial divisions and demoralize African American voters.

Full Article: Maryland was never in play in 2016. The Russians targeted it anyway. - The Washington Post.

United Kingdom: Former Cambridge Analytica director, Brittany Kaiser, dumps more evidence of Brexit’s democratic trainwreck | Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

A UK parliamentary committee has published new evidence fleshing out how membership data was passed from UKIP, a pro-Brexit political party, to Leave.EU, a Brexit supporting campaign active in the 2016 EU referendum — via the disgraced and now defunct data company, Cambridge Analytica. In evidence sessions last year, during the DCMS committee’s enquiry into online disinformation, it was told by both the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, and the main financial backer of the Leave.EU campaign, the businessman Arron Banks, that Cambridge Analytica did no work for the Leave.EU campaign. Documents published today by the committee clearly contradict that narrative — revealing internal correspondence about the use of a UKIP dataset to create voter profiles to carry out “national microtargeting” for Leave.EU. They also show CA staff raising concerns about the legality of the plan to model UKIP data to enable Leave.EU to identify and target receptive voters with pro-Brexit messaging. The UK’s 2016 in-out EU referendum saw the voting public narrowing voting to leave — by 52:48.

Full Article: Former Cambridge Analytica director, Brittany Kaiser, dumps more evidence of Brexit’s democratic trainwreck | TechCrunch.