A Test of Meddle

Fake news and election interference crashed back into the headlines this week. Early on Tuesday, Microsoft said it had found fake websites and other evidence suggesting that Russian hackers are expanding their list of potential political targets ahead of the 2018 US midterms. Later, Facebook revealed details of a suspected Iranian influence operation targeting people in the US, UK, Latin America, and Middle East. The social network also said it had removed hundreds of accounts linked to apparent Iranian and Russian misinformation efforts – showing that the private sector is casting a wide net in its search for potentially malicious activity.


We can expect more of this kind of thing as we head towards November. Unlike two years ago, when Russia’s attempts to swing the election through disinformation and hacking went unchallenged until it was too late, today the US government and private sector tech companies are on high alert, scanning the horizon for signs of underhanded foreign influence. With the US also signaling a more aggressive stance on broader cyber policy, this raises an important question: where do governments draw the line between mere “meddling” and “interference” that demands a response?

Way back in February, fellow Signalista Alex Kilment described three broad approaches to election interference: hacking the vote, by directly targeting voting machines and tallies; hacking the voters, by spreading false or inflammatory information to influence their choices on election day; or hacking democracy itself by raising doubts about the legitimacy of the entire process.

These are very different things, yet they tend to get lumped together in discussions about how to avoid a repeat of 2016. All three represent big problems for democracies around the world, but grappling effectively with the threat – and avoiding an over-reaction – may require distinguishing more carefully between them.*

Disclosure: Microsoft is a sponsor of GZERO Media.

How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.

Learn more about RePack in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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Donald J. Trump and CorOnaVirus decide to hit the road together across the USA. Will DJT and COV discover they are more alike than different? Will their interests diverge? #PUPPETREGIME

Jon Lieber, Managing Director for the United States at the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on US politics.

Where are US-China relations in this battle over TikTok and what is happening?

Well, this may seem like a minor deal. It's a video sharing app that the president has given 45 days to sell to a US entity or get banned in the United States. But along with WeChat, these are two of China's most successful technology companies that the US has now banned from entry into the United States and potentially banned from being used on operating systems that rely on US software inside China. So, this is a huge escalation in the geotech war between the United States and China. China for a long time has not allowed Google and Facebook and other American applications to be fully operative inside their borders. And now the US is stepping up against Chinese technology companies. The reason is that there's concerns among the US government about these tech, these apps data security practices. Members of the military, high ranking government officials aren't allowed to have these on their phones because there's concern about what China does with the data that they can harvest from those phones. This is a real warning sign to other Chinese technology companies that they may not be welcome inside the American market unless they can prove in some way, they are totally independent from the Chinese government and the Chinese military. Expect a lot of escalation in this area over the coming months and years.

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In a new interview with Ian Bremmer for GZERO World, former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says that the single most important step to reopening schools in the fall is to control infection in the community. But as of now, too many communities across the United States have lost control of the Covid-19 virus. Opening schools will only become a possibility once a majority of people start practicing the "Three 'W's" ("Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance") and local and federal governments enforce stricter protective policies. The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, August 7, 2020. Check local listings.