Publications

Mexican political party the New Alliance (Nueva Alianza, or PANAL) has been benefiting from significant online amplification by a cluster of activists and probable Twitter bots, in the countdown to the country’s July 1 election.

As part of our ongoing monitoring of Mexican political dynamics, @DFRLab analyzed a number of hashtags supporting PANAL. We found a mixture of bots and highly-active human accounts which, together, gave a major boost to the campaign’s hashtags — enough to significantly distort the traffic.

Read the full analysis on Medium.
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In a newly released report, Global Energy Center Senior Fellow Alan Riley highlights the risks that could stem from the construction of the contentious proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which would bring gas from Russia to Germany. In the report, Dr. Riley emphasizes that the proposed pipeline would have negative implications for European energy security, including undermining transit security, reducing route diversity, creating a “Straits of Hormuz” risk for Europe, and undermining the single market.

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The Colombian elections have spurred significant interest in Venezuela, as evidenced by the social media activity of accounts based in the country or managed by Venezuelans.

#ElectionWatch researchers looked into this activity. There is more evidence of coordinated social media efforts between Venezuelan opposition supporters and Colombian right-wing groups, than between the Colombian left wing and Chavista supporters.

The most successful tweet from Venezuela to Colombia, however, was a false story, which once again highlights our concerns about the misinformation flows in these elections and their political use.

Read the full analysis on Medium.
A week before the election, people attending a campaign rally for presidential candidate Iván Duque were attacked by a swarm bees. A number of high-profile Uribe sympathizers blamed supporters of Colombia Humana’s Gustavo Petro for the attack. The Cesar department police chief quickly debunked the accusations. 

The Atlantic Council's #ElectionWatch team analyzed the case and the flows of information online. Like the case with the #FraudeElectoral hashtag, partisan users were willing to push deceptive narratives, without regard for the availability of verified versions of them. What is even more worrying, is that the work of fact-checkers and journalists is not being shared widely enough for debunking lies on social media.

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The uncertain results of President Trump’s June 12 summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un underscore the fact that the United States needs to keep developing tools to intensify the “maximum pressure” campaign that helped bring North Korea to the negotiating table. If North Korea proves unwilling to denuclearize and diplomacy breaks down once again, the Trump administration will need game-changing options in its sanctions arsenal. In “How to Increase Pressure if Diplomacy with North Korea Fails” authors Daleep Singh, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and Peter E. Harrell, adjunct senior fellow at CNAS, explain that a truly “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea would require the credible threat of targeted sanctions against China. The authors identify opportunities to increase pressure on China to curtail its economic support for North Korea by proceeding in three parts. First, Singh and Harrell assess China’s financial vulnerabilities. Second, they review key US sources of leverage. Finally, the authors provide specific recommendations on potential sanctions if the current diplomatic opening with North Korea fails to resolve the crisis.

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Since Putin’s annexation of Crimea and military aggression in Donbas—and especially since the 2016 US presidential election—the spread of Kremlin propaganda and disinformation has become a dominant subject of discussion and debate in the West. Academic research, investigative journalism, government inquiries, and NGO activities have drawn back the curtain on the Kremlin’s efforts to meddle in and distort the Western information space.

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In a little less than a month, Mexico will elect not only a new President, but also 128 members of the Senate and 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies. Ahead of the elections, researchers have observed the use of bots, both commercial and political, deployed for the purpose of promoting candidates, campaign materials, and opposition research on social networks. This is not the first election in Mexico shrouded in social media manipulation and likely not the last.

The use of bots in Mexico is not limited to one political party and seems a more general practice. The majority of research on social media manipulation in Mexico ahead of elections focused on the Presidential race, but much less attention was paid to automatization in senatorial campaigns.

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After the first round of voting in Colombia’s presidential election on May 27, citizens took to social media to share claims of ballot tampering in favor of leading candidate Iván Duque.

The conservative Duque won the first round with 39 percent of the vote, comfortably ahead of progressive rival Gustavo Petro, who garnered 25 percent. The two rivals are to face one another in a runoff on June 17.

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As the energy sector has become more globalized and increasingly complex in its reliance on software components, the supply-chain risk has evolved and expanded. One such risk that stands out is unintended taint, namely flaws in software components unintentionally built into products in design or implementation. Unintended taint may lead to unintended supply-chain subversion, and represents a significant and credible threat to the uninterrupted functionality of critical infrastructure within the energy sector. In this issue brief, we outline a taxonomy for understanding certain energy sector risks and provide concrete recommendations for policy makers and the private sector.

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In the buildup to Mexico’s presidential election on July 1, reports have been circulating of “Russian bots” amplifying political messaging in Mexico, raising fears of Russian state-backed interference, such as was seen in the United States in 2016.

@DFRLab has investigated these reports. We have been unable to verify claims of large-scale bot activity emanating from Russia. We have found one apparently Russian botnet boosting Mexican political messages, but this botnet appears to be commercially-run, boosting posts from a wide range of countries and on a wide range of subjects.

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