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DHS Homeland Threat Analysis Also Fails To Mention Chinese Election Meddling- Is the Agency Worried About Politicization Accusations?

October 18th, 2020 09:07

As the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed ear­li­er, the US Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty has released its Octo­ber 2020 “Home­land Threat Assess­ment,” which con­tains a strange­ly couched assess­ment of Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions. Sim­i­lar to its assess­ment on Iran, the DHS report, using terms such as “prob­a­ble” and “might,” the report fails to men­tion Chi­nese efforts regard­ing the upcom­ing US elec­tions. Instead, it focus­es on the Chi­nese oper­a­tions cen­tered on the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Accord­ing to the report:

Chi­nese oper­a­tives prob­a­bly are wag­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns using overt and covert tactics—including social media trolls— to shift respon­si­bil­i­ty for the pan­dem­ic to oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing the Unit­ed States. Chi­na might increase its influ­ence activ­i­ties in response to what it views as anti-Chi­na state­ments from the U.S. Gov­ern­ment over China’s role in the pandemic.

  • Since August 2019, more than 10,000 sus­pect­ed fake Twit­ter accounts have been involved in a coor­di­nat­ed influ­ence cam­paign with sus­pect­ed ties to the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment. Among these are hacked accounts from users around the world that post mes­sag­ing and dis­in­for­ma­tion about the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic and oth­er top­ics of inter­est to China.
  • China’s For­eign Min­istry, state media, and offi­cial Twit­ter accounts pro­mote overt nar­ra­tives claim­ing the coro­n­avirus may have orig­i­nat­ed in the Unit­ed States, crit­i­cize the U.S. pan­dem­ic response, and pub­li­cize China’s COVID-19-relat­ed med­ical assis­tance to U.S. cities and states. Chi­na has dou­bled the num­ber of offi­cial gov­ern­ment posts dis­sem­i­nat­ing false nar­ra­tives about COVID-19 and has car­ried out per­sis­tent and large-scale dis­in­for­ma­tion and influ­ence oper­a­tions that cor­re­late with diplo­mat­ic messaging.
  • Chi­na most like­ly will con­tin­ue ampli­fy­ing nar­ra­tives sup­port­ive of its pan­dem­ic response while den­i­grat­ing U.S. offi­cial crit­i­cism that Bei­jing views as tar­nish­ing its glob­al image.

Accord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post report recent­ly dis­cussed by the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR), Chi­na has been active­ly try­ing to inter­fere in the elec­tions, notably “bash­ing” US Pres­i­dent Trump:

This month, new research from Graphi­ka, a social media analy­sis com­pa­ny, showed that a net­work of fake Chi­nese accounts has been post­ing videos bash­ing Trump, crit­i­ciz­ing his recent clo­sure of China’s con­sulate in Hous­ton, his han­dling of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and his threats to ban the pop­u­lar social media app Tik­Tok. The researchers also found the first direct ref­er­ence to Biden — a bunch of flat­ter­ing pic­tures — from the Chi­nese net­work, which has a his­to­ry of rapid­ly churn­ing out videos with awk­ward­ly word­ed Eng­lish sub­ti­tles and nar­ra­tion. The group hasn’t been direct­ly linked to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and it isn’t clear whether the intend­ed audi­ence for the videos was Chi­nese, Amer­i­can or a com­bi­na­tion. But its over­ar­ch­ing goal seems to be defend­ing Chi­nese inter­ests, which is in line with the U.S. intel­li­gence assessment.

A pos­si­ble rea­son for the DHS fail­ure to men­tion Chi­nese and Iran­ian influ­ence oper­a­tions tar­get­ing US elec­tions is the poten­tial accu­sa­tion of politi­ciza­tion on the part of the agency. How­ev­er, DHS seems to have no such con­cerns regard­ing its report­ing on Russia.