How Russian and Chinese interference could affect the 2024 US election

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Russia ultimately announced its retreat a day after America’s midterm elections.

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With Republican opposition to Ukraine funding growing, officials believe that Moscow is likely to try to interfere even more in 2024.

Has China learned from Russia?

While Russia has long tried to influence American political debates over divisive issues, China has traditionally focused more narrowly, working against local politicians who take stands on Tibet, Taiwan or other similar issues. US officials say that may be about to change.

It is not entirely clear what China is going to do, or what side it will take in 2024. The report suggests that Chinese leaders viewed the 2022 election as a chance to portray the US model as chaotic.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping tightening his grip on politics and the economy, the ideological differences between the United States and China have grown starker. With that, Chinese leaders are more interested in influence campaigns that magnify social divisions in the United States – long the focus of Russian operations.

How far the Chinese will go is not completely understood but American spy agencies appear to know more than they are revealing. The report contains one of those frustrating redactions. It announces that Chinese leaders have “directed a new focus on” and then blacks out the subject of the sentence.

How might artificial intelligence play a role?

China has already begun experimenting with artificial intelligence in its influence campaigns. Industry experts say that new technologies will make it easier for foreign countries to mimic native English speakers and generate messages amplifying existing divisions more rapidly.

But government officials are more worried AI technologies could be used to create hyperrealistic – but fake – videos, the kind of disinformation that could do damage quickly.

Are countries still trying to hack into local government computer systems?

They are not. This is one bit of good news in the most recent intelligence assessment.

The American election system’s extreme decentralisation is its greatest defence. Russian hackers did target voting systems in 2016 but foreign countries now believe it is far too difficult to meaningfully affect vote counts by hacking into local government computer networks.

As a result, a variety of foreign powers have redoubled efforts to otherwise influence the election.

Beyond China and Russia

The report also looks at other countries interested in influencing the US vote.

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Cuba, hoping the United States will drop sanctions against its government, tried to weigh in on some congressional and governors’ races in 2022, the report found. While details are redacted, the report said officials in Havana focused on Florida politicians because the Cuban American community in Miami has an outsized influence on policy toward Cuba.

Iran backed several inauthentic campaigns on Twitter and other social media platforms seeking to boost progressive candidates. Some of those fake accounts also amplified pro-Palestinian sentiment.



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