Russian Election Disinformation Playbook: Tehran Edition

We already know that the Russians and Chinese are up to no good regarding our elections, and now Iran is in on the act. That’s the word from Wired magazine, which reports that it’s been a successful change in strategy from the earlier approach taken by Iran.

Instead of focusing on domestic Iranian politics, the new network focused on U.S. and British politics. It was a more successful tactic, if you judge success by followers. The old network had about 200,000; the new one had more than 1 million. Facebook shut down 82 associated accounts from the new network in October.

The article’s findings are in line with a joint U.S. government statement from the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security from Oct. 19 laying out exactly what’s going on regarding foreign interference in the midterms.

The statement fingers Russia, China and Iran as culprits, explaining their tactics and pointing out that as of that date, there was no “evidence of a compromise or disruption of infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts or disrupt our ability to tally votes in the midterm elections.” There were a few attempts to access the networks of state and local governments, which “often include online voter registration databases,” but they were all thwarted.

It’s worth your time to read it because it’s straight from the source, and there’s no better way to judge a situation for yourself than to review primary sources. That’s because everything is open to interpretation and news is no different.

While our mission at CAFI is to educate the public about foreign interference with our democracy, we have a sideline in cutting through click-bait and getting to the facts. For the second time this month, we’ve spotted a story that’s taking the long road to the actual news.

This piece entitled “Google says it’s seeing very little hacking against the US midterms — but there’s a catch” backs into the news.

Allow us to translate: Russian disinformation and propaganda operations are in full swing, but Google – like the government – hasn’t seen any evidence of actual hacking of election systems yet, according to Google’s director of threat analysis, Shane Huntley.

The article quotes Huntley’s observation about the success of our enemies, made during a speech on Oct. 22. It takes on poignance in light of the recent domestic attacks:

Speculating on why they’re seeing fewer direct hacking attempts than 2016, Huntley said: “If the goal at that time was to create a world where there was less faith in the democratic institutions, that we were a divided country, that there was hyper-partisanism, and it was like driving a wedge between the different sides of the democracy, one might say there’s not a lot of hacking that needs to happen at this current point to actually engender that—because we’re already here.”