Defending Democracy: Taking Stock of the Global Fight Against Digital Repression, Disinformation, and Election Insecurity

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See all articles by Scott Shackelford

Scott Shackelford

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law; Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs; Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research; Stanford Center for Internet and Society; Stanford Law School

Anjanette Raymond

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law; Queen Mary University of London, School of Law; Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Abbey Stemler

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Cyanne Loyle

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 4, 2020

Abstract

Amidst the regular drumbeat of reports about Russian attempts to undermine U.S. democratic institutions from Twitter bots to cyber-attacks on Congressional candidates, it is easy to forget that the problem of election security is not isolated to the United States and extends far beyond safeguarding insecure voting machines. Consider Australia, which has long been grappling with repeated Chinese attempts to interfere with its political system. Yet Australia has taken a distinct approach in how it has sought to protect its democratic institutions, including reclassifying its political parties as “critical infrastructure,” a step that the U.S. government has yet to take despite repeated breaches at both the Democratic and Republican National Committees.

This Article analyzes the Australian approach to protecting its democratic institutions from Chinese influence operations and compares it to the U.S. response to Russian efforts. It then moves on to discuss how other cyber powers, including the European Union, have taken on the fight against digital repression and disinformation, and then compares these practices to the particular vulnerabilities of Small Pacific Island Nations. Such a comparative study is vital to help build resilience, and trust, in democratic systems on both sides of the Pacific. We argue that a multifaceted approach is needed to build more resilient and sustainable democratic systems. This should encompass both targeted reforms focusing on election infrastructure security—such as requiring paper ballots and risk-limiting audits—with deeper structural interventions to limit the spread of misinformation and combat digital repression.

Keywords: democracy, election security, hacking, voting, china, russia, misinformation, digital repression

Suggested Citation

Shackelford, Scott J. and Raymond, Anjanette and Stemler, Abbey and Loyle, Cyanne, Defending Democracy: Taking Stock of the Global Fight Against Digital Repression, Disinformation, and Election Insecurity (March 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Scott J. Shackelford

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs ( email )

79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research ( email )

Wylie Hall 105
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Stanford Center for Internet and Society ( email )

Palo Alto, CA
United States

Stanford Law School ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Anjanette Raymond

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Abbey Stemler (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://cyber.harvard.edu/people/abbey-stemler

Cyanne Loyle

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

University Park, State College, PA 16801
United States

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