Russia is working globally to undermine public confidence in the integrity of democratic elections, expanding tactics it used in the 2020 American contest for the presidency, according to US intelligence agencies.
(Bloomberg) — Russia is working globally to undermine public confidence in the integrity of democratic elections, expanding tactics it used in the 2020 American contest for the presidency, according to US intelligence agencies.
A new assessment cites a shift in the tactics employed after studying Russia’s involvement in elections held from January 2020 through December 2022. A cable sent to missions worldwide and obtained by Bloomberg News said Russia sought to “undermine public confidence” in at least 11 elections including in the US.
The intel community “also identified a less pronounced level of Russian messaging and social media activity targeting an additional 17 democracies,” it said, calling the operations “a concerning trend in Russia’s global campaign against democratic institutions and governance.”
Russia has denied interfering with elections. But President Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the divisive state of US politics, including the criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. “Everything that is happening with Trump is the persecution of a political rival for political reasons,” Putin said last month.
A senior US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the new assessment, said that Russia used influence networks, proxy accounts and websites during the period studied. In one 2020 election held in Europe, the official said, Russia’s top spy agency used proxies to intimidate poll workers, launch election-day protests and sabotage overseas voting.
The US official said that given the time period studied, more recent tactics using artificial intelligence to create fake images and voices didn’t come into play.
Russian state media also have claimed elections were undemocratic and amplified false claims of voter fraud and election interference by others in the US and elsewhere.
The State Department has shared a declassified summary of these findings with more than 100 countries and has advocated various ways to counter the Russian efforts. Those include promoting more factual information, sanctioning people who interfere with elections and expelling intelligence officers.
The US hasn’t observed China employing the same tactics of undermining public confidence in elections, according to the document. The senior intelligence official said the US assesses that China nonetheless is working to influence and interfere with elections around the world.
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