Disinformation

  • How to Weather a Hack: Lessons from the Macron Leaks

    Just days before the final round of France’s 2017 presidential election—and mere hours before a media blackout would muzzle all content on the campaign—hackers and online trolls released and promoted a dump of leaked e-mails from leading candidate Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! party, attempting to sway voters’ minds toward his competitor, National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

    But that effort failed. Rather than stumbling due to the hack’s revelations, Macron sailed to a thirty-two-point landslide victory over Le Pen. Unlike previous disinformation campaigns in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, the leaked “documents,” which included faked memos and legitimate, but inconsequential, correspondence, were met largely with a collective shrug by the French electorate. Why did this

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  • Open Source Information as a Tool in Exposing Authoritarian Regimes

    In April, Norwegian security agents informed Iyad el-Baghdadi that he was the target of a threat emanating from Saudi Arabia. El-Baghdadi believes the threat came from the government of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the crown prince’s righthand man Saud al-Qahtani.


    El-Baghdadi, a prominent Arab activist, is a critic of the Saudi government, much like his late friend, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He took the threat seriously.

    El-Baghdadi says the threats to his life have escalated since his involvement in an investigation into ...
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  • The Importance of Working Together in the Fight Against Disinformation

    A report released last week by the European Commission and the European Union’s diplomatic service said “evidence collected revealed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences” during the European parliamentary elections in May. The European analysis said it was too soon to conclude whether these online campaigns had influenced the outcome of the elections.


    The attribution of this disinformation campaign to “Russian sources” is exceptional as the European Union has in the past been cautious about assigning blame for cyberattacks to a foreign country by name.

    But Sasha Havlicek, founding chief executive officer of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, confessed to being “quite surprised by the number of incidences [more than 900] that were quoted in that report.”


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  • How the European Union Avoided a Disinformation Crisis

    When voters in the twenty-eight European Union (EU) member states went to the polls in May to elect a new European Parliament, the second-largest democratic exercise in the world provided a “very tempting target for somebody who wanted to interfere in our democratic processes,” Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, said at the Atlantic Council’s 360 O/S conference in London on June 20. But thanks to increased measures to protect its citizens from disinformation, he added, the EU “didn’t see any kind of spectacular attack.”


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  • Wanted: A Code of Ethics for Open Source Researchers

    As more and more actors start to work with open source information there is an urgent need for a code of ethics to guide decision-making on what tools are used and when, speakers told an audience at the Atlantic Council’s 360/OS conference in London on June 20.


    Alexa Koenig, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and Kate Starbird, director of the ecCOMP Laboratory at the University of Washington, discussed the need for ethical and methodological standards and what these would look like.


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  • Bullseye on Brussels: Can EU Defeat Disinformation in Parliamentary Elections?

    The vast amount of foreign meddling in the 2016 US presidential election was a wakeup call for the European Union (EU). It was obvious the next big target of malign actors would be Europe, with twenty-eight countries electing more than 750 lawmakers in May 2019.


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  • The Christchurch Call and the Failure of US Leadership

    The Christchurch Call, signed by eighteen national governments and eight major technology companies on May 15, represents a significant development in the fields of counterterrorism and Internet policy. The statement comes two months after a white ethno-nationalist terrorist used a Facebook livestream to broadcast his massacre of fifty-one worshippers in a Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque. It commits its signatories to explore legal, regulatory, and technical solutions to counter the online spread of terrorist and violent extremist content. The Trump administration refused to sign, citing unspecified free speech concerns.


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  • How the West Can Confront a Resurgent Russia

    The United States, working with its allies and democratic partners, can push back against Russian aggression, which has been marked by interference in elections in the United States and Europe; the harassment, invasion, and annexation of neighbors; and the propping up of despots in places such as Syria and Venezuela, Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Daniel Fried told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 1.

    “The world’s great and emerging democracies have the power and political legitimacy” to not only push back against Russia, but also “to maintain a rules-based system that favors freedom and advances our nation’s interests and other nations’ interests,” Fried said at a hearing on “Countering a Resurgent Russia.”


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  • Has Progress Been Made in Containing Disinformation?

    The spread of online disinformation during the 2018 election campaigns in Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil demonstrated to social media companies that they need to “make sure that we are not solving just the problems that we saw in the US in 2016, but that we are really thinking steps ahead,” according to Katie Harbath, public policy director of global elections at Facebook.


    The three high-profile elections in Latin America made up “one of our very first big test cases” for new measures meant to limit the spread of false information on Facebook, Harbath said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on March 28. But while Facebook has had some success in limiting harmful activity on its platform, Harbath explained “we have to have different solutions for all of our different platforms.”


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  • Seminar on Fighting Disinformation by Democratic Means

    On March 28, 2019, the Atlantic Council Northern Europe Office in collaboration with the U.S Embassy in Stockholm, organized a day seminar on 'Resistance and Resilience: Fighting Disinformation by Democratic Means.' The seminar brought together journalists, academic experts, civil society and representatives of government and organizations to discuss the challenge presented by disinformation and different ways to improve resilience ahead of a string of elections in Europe during 2019.


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