In this campaign season, Russia might try to manipulate U.S. voters through social media as it did in 2016. New technologies have made these efforts easier. Russia's tactics aim to polarize Americans, create distrust, and paralyze the political process. What is the best defense against them?
Analyzing Election Disinformation Efforts
Photo by Marco Bello/Reuters
Foreign interference in U.S. politics has been a concern since the nation was founded.
Concerns over foreign influence in U.S. politics date back to the founding of this country. Alexander Hamilton warned about "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils." George Washington's farewell speech cautioned that "foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union operated a sophisticated program involving covert and overt information efforts against the United States.
More recently, the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence presented evidence that Russia directed activities against state and local election infrastructures and tried to spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 presidential election.
Given these past and likely extant threats to U.S. elections, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services asked the RAND Corporation's National Security Research Division to help them analyze, forecast, and mitigate threats by foreign actors targeting local, state, and national elections.
What This Series Covers
- Part 1 Reviews what existing research tells us about information efforts by foreign actors
- Part 2 Identifies potential information exploits in social media
- Part 3 Assesses interventions to defend against exploits
- Part 4 Explores people's views on falsehoods (forthcoming)
Final volumes of the study's findings are being released as they complete peer-review. Volumes one through three are published and available from this site.
Marek N. Posard discusses findings from the project's first report. He describes several broad risks of foreign interference in American democracy and explains how Russia may use reflexive control theory to cause disruption in the 2020 U.S. Election.