From Russia With Love

41 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017 Last revised: 3 May 2022

See all articles by David Thaw

David Thaw

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law; University of Pittsburgh - School of Information Sciences; Yale University - Information Society Project; University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public & International Affairs; National Defense University - College of Information and Cyberspace

Date Written: April 26, 2022


This Article examines the questions of Election Interference in a digital interconnected age. It identifies a typology that distinguishes between: (1) “Election Hacking,” which targets infrastructure and records; and (2) “Influence Operations,” which comprise persuasive messaging targeting how or whether individuals choose to vote. It distinguishes between the types of technological and legal solutions available to each category and between the types of ex ante and ex post legal solutions and redress that are available in each category.

Using this typology of problems and potential solutions, this Article concludes that the persuasive messaging regarding policy matters poses the greatest challenge in unlawful foreign Election Interference. These Influence Operations are not amenable to technological methods of prevention and face significant challenges for legal solutions. Ex ante legal solutions face steep First Amendment hurdles, and ex post legal redress either is unavailable or nonjusticiable.

Despite these challenges, this Article argues that three categories of actors, working within their respective capacities and limitations, can significantly mitigate the impacts of unlawful foreign Influence Operations. Government actors can conduct investigative and counterintelligence operations to identify unlawful foreign activities, shut them down, and potentially stop dissemination before they enter the protected political sphere. Such activities also can inform the choices of social media platform operators to enforce rules, flag content, and provide links to official or trusted third-party information sources on their “private property.” And engaged, respectful, and persuasive discourse among individual citizens can directly mitigate the impact of Influence Operations. Indeed, this information “market” has functioned for centuries in traditional media, and there is no reason to believe that it cannot continue to do so, buttressed by carefully construed government assistance.

Keywords: influence operations, election interference, election hacking, cybersecurity, elections, hacking, risk management

Suggested Citation

Thaw, David, From Russia With Love (April 26, 2022). 59 Houston Law Review 1137 (2022), U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-32, Available at SSRN: or

David Thaw (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States


University of Pittsburgh - School of Information Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Yale University - Information Society Project ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public & International Affairs ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260-0001
United States

National Defense University - College of Information and Cyberspace ( email )

300 5th Ave
Ft McNair
Washington, DC 20319
United States

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