A bipartisan roster of former senior national security officials have signed onto a new initiative – the Alliance for Securing Democracy – to track and ultimately counter Russian political meddling, cyber-mischief and fake news, The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin reports:
The project will be housed at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and will be run day to day by a staff led by Laura Rosenberger, a former senior State Department official in the Obama administration, and Jamie Fly, former national security counselor to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)… The idea is to create a platform and repository of information about Russian political influence activities in the United States and Europe that can be the basis for cooperation and a resource for analysts on both sides of the Atlantic to push back against Russian meddling.
“This threat to our democracy is a national security issue. Russia is waging a war on us. They are using different kinds of weapons than we are used to in a war,” Rosenberger said. “We need to do a much better job understanding the tools the Russians are using and that others could use in the future to undermine democratic institutions and we need to work closer with our European allies who also are subjected to this threat.”
The current information warfare against Western democracies is a manifestation of the growing conflict between the democratic forces of the ‘free Internet’ and an authoritarian ‘cybersovereignty’ camp, led by Russia and China, says Alexander Klimburg, author of The Darkening Web. The threat of an international cyber war is as real as nuclear exchange during the Cold War — only “many orders of magnitude greater,” he told NPR today.
The forces of the ‘free Internet’ favor the unconstrained flow of information, while the ‘cybersovereignty’ camp seeks government control and regulation of the Internet and of information, says Klimburg, director of cyber policy at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the Netherlands. Ultimately, the battle for a free Internet “is nothing less than the struggle for the heart of modern democratic society,” he contends.
The free Internet side, by contrast, struggles to defend a status quo based on international transparency and cooperation. The ultimate goal of the cybersovereignty advocates, Klimburg says, is nothing less than “a reconceptualization of the entire Western-defined global order”. And they seem to have the wind at their backs. Heightened concerns about online security are leading to increased governmental policing of cyberspace. Russian hacking of political campaigns and manipulative ‘influence operations’ during the 2016 US presidential election made dramatically clear the possibilities of weaponizing information. Rising nationalism and political polarization in the West may exacerbate the situation.
Russia’s active measures extend beyond disinformation, notes Newsweek, which reports that the Kremlin is funding Green groups to discredit natural gas fracking, adding that Russia’s Gazprom stands to benefit from reduced natural gas production in the U.S.
Facts and arguments may be open to different interpretations in many cases, but truth is truth. Russia really did invade Ukraine and seize Crimea. The Malaysian airliner MH17 really was shot down. No amount of Kremlin “whataboutism” or moral relativism can change that, says The Economist’s Edward Lucas. It’s fairly easy to get some clues about whether a website is really a news outlet, he writes for the Center for European Policy Analysis:
- Does it have a street address? Real news organizations exist in the real world, whereas many of the worst propagators of information attacks and bad journalism keep their identities secret. A particular test is a “who is” search—the internet equivalent of a birth certificate. If that has been intentionally obfuscated, or if the details are fake, then something odd is afoot.
- Another big question is whether real people are involved. Do the “journalists” who have purportedly authored the stories have any independently verifiable existence?
- The third test is journalistic standards. Does the website show any willingness to engage with the outside world? A generic e-mail address or contact form does not count. Does it show any sign of interacting with its readers? Does it accept comments or letters to the editor? Perhaps most important of all, does it publish apologies, corrections and clarifications?