June 7, 2024 | The Bulwark

Sasha Havlicek on elections disinformation in the US

ISD’s CEO and co-founder, Sasha Havlicek, is a guest on the ‘Beg to Differ‘ podcast by The Bulwark to discuss the threat electoral disinformation poses in the US.

In a conversation with Mona Charen, Linda Chavez, Philip Bump and Damon Linker, Sasha explained why the US is more vulnerable to foreign disinformation now than it was in 2020.

Sasha began by emphasising how “there are multiple foreign actors with a stake in this election and their toolkit has expanded,” pointing to Russia, Iran and China as the most sophisticated actors. Although these are not new offenders, they either have higher stakes in this election, as is the case of Russia’s motivation to change policy on Ukraine, or they are adopting new, more aggressive tactics in the case of pro-CCP influence campaigns.

“Perhaps the most challenging part of this is that the hostile state piece of the landscape increasingly piggybacks of domestic networks, domestic conspiracy and extremist networks. They don’t really need to produce their own content as much as they amplify what already is, of course, being spread by those types of networks,” she said.

However, Sasha explains how we cannot fully comprehend these threats without looking at the systems where they spread – social media platforms: “It is not just that […] they fail to enforce their own policies on hate and extremism and disinformation, and that they algorithmically amplify the content that comes closest to the red line in relation to those policies. But that we’ve now also seen in the recent period is that they’ve been laying off their content moderators. (…) And to sort of add insult to injury there, we’ve seen the shuttering of data access for researchers on social media platforms. So we are less able to do the monitoring and to identify these types of hostile activities than ever before.”

The podcast episode is available on the Bulwark website, as well as Spotify and Apple Podcast.