(War on the Rocks) Kremlin-backed trolls are sowing disinformation and have adapted their game for the 2020 campaign. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has been vague about the probity of accepting foreign assistance, and the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently announced that it would no longer provide in-person briefings to Congress on foreign electoral interference. To boot, Facebook recently removed pages linked to Russian intelligence in hopes of heading off a disinformation campaign closer to election day. Four weeks before one of the most important presidential elections in its history, the United States remains vulnerable to foreign influence online — a vulnerability that stems as much from U.S. politics and media as from Russian bots and hackers.
Understanding the precise nature of foreign electoral interference online is important for two reasons. Underplaying the risks leaves U.S. elections vulnerable to manipulation by adversaries. Overplaying the risks may undermine the legitimacy of elections by allowing the losing side to claim that it lost due to foreign interference. Inflating the risks also allows rival countries who interfere in elections online to claim credit and power beyond their true capabilities. The power of foreign electoral interference lies as much in perceptions as in reality. […]
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