Many countries, not just Russia, are trying to influence US elections, experts warn

TwitterSeveral countries are behind organized efforts to influence electoral politics in the United States, with Russia being one among a growing list of culprits, according to experts. Speaking to The Washington Post last week, cybersecurity experts issued what they described as “a wake-up call” to voters and warned that America’s information space is becoming “a free-for-all for foreign intelligence”. Foreign spy services that are utilizing information operations in order to influence US elections reportedly include —aside from Russia— Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and China.

The majority of foreign information operations take place on social-media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But there are also campaigns to influence more traditional American media, for instance by tricking newspapers into publishing letters to the editor that are in fact authored by foreign intelligence operatives. Analysts from FireEye, Graphika and other cybersecurity and network-analysis firms told The Post that some information operations are difficult to detect, because the presence of a state security service is not always apparent. However, the messages that are communicated in tweets, Facebook postings, online videos, etc., tend to echo —often word for word— the rhetoric of foreign governments, and promote their geopolitical objectives. As can be expected, these objectives vary. Thus, Russian, Israeli and Saudi information operations tend to express strong political support for US President Donald Trump, arguably because these governments see his potential re-election as a development that would further their national interest. In contrast, Iranian information operations tend to lambast Trump for his negative stance on the Iranian nuclear deal and for his support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the Yemeni Civil War.

The Washington Post article notes that all major social-media companies employ teams of screeners whose mission is to detect and eliminate disinformation campaigns by both state and non-state actors. However, experts remain skeptical about their ability to combat the phenomenon, given that the quantity and sophistication of disinformation campaigns is constantly increasing. Many countries —including Israel and the United States— now maintain advanced information operations targeting national elections on several continents. There are also many governments —such as Qatar, the Philippines and Turkey— that use these techniques on their own voters and could potentially use them in the near future to target foreign populations, including Americans. The 2020 presidential election in the US is expected to be the most hotly contested in many decades, so it is certain that numerous foreign spy agencies will try to influence it in numerous ways, says The Post.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 July 2019 | Permalink

6 Responses to Many countries, not just Russia, are trying to influence US elections, experts warn

  1. amenhotep says:

    yeah well we all know the biggest influencer of amerikkkan politics issrael

  2. Spy Culture says:

    Just the usual incredibly vague twaddle about how twitter is somehow going to sway the 2020 election. Someone echoing what a government says is not in itself a sign of a state-sponsored information warfare operation. People echo what Trump says, people echoed what Obama said, and none of these ‘cybersecurity specialists’ ever said those people were covert government operatives.

    Though some of them were. Here are a couple of stories (out of dozens I could cite) that would be useful context for your readers, and would balance out the jingoism of ‘these FOREIGNERS are trying to influence OUR elections!’:

  3. smoshter says:

    It’s interesting that claims of voter influencing get far more energy than claims of lobbying influence, even though lobbyists get access to lawmakers 365 days each year while voters get access to government one day in every 1460 days (election day). It’s all part of the illusion that voting is important and you should totally, definitely not engage in any other form of political action. Ahhh, America…

  4. Pete says:

    Even some friendly governments (say in western Europe?) may prefer a Democrat candidate over Trump, and quietly supply US journalists with information favouring the Democrats…

    But returning to Russia. Its interesting how Russia reportedly mobilized major non-state actors, especially Wikileaks, to influence the 2016 Election in Trump’s favour. The Washington Examiner, April 18, 2019, reported

    “Mueller says Russia’s GRU stole Clinton, DNC emails and gave them to WikiLeaks…Mueller wrote “GRU officers used both the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas to communicate with WikiLeaks through Twitter private messaging and through encrypted channels, including possibly through WikiLeaks’s private communication system. WikiLeaks has consistently denied that the thousands of Democratic emails it released throughout the 2016 election came to them by way of Russia…”

  5. Kudos to commentators smoshter and amenhotep….you hit the nail right on the head….

  6. Anonymous says:

    Though perhaps 3 of the commenters above could be fronting for Russia or Wikileaks…

    in an effort to deflect the conversation away from Russian meddling in America’s election process.

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