Democracy Now and Next – The Role of Technology and Disinformation: What is to be Done?
sarah mendelson: Good afternoon, welcome to the fourth session of democracy now and next we're so pleased to have you with us, this is a conversation with experts. sarah mendelson: Who and colleagues and friends who are working with us on a task force that's been organized by Freedom House csis and the McCain Institute. sarah mendelson: Looking at new strategies for us democracy, support and countering authoritarianism. sarah mendelson: The public sessions are done in collaboration with our colleagues from georgetown university and specifically. sarah mendelson: Nicole Bremen sedaka who's the Deputy Director of georgetown's master of science.
sarah mendelson: In foreign service and is shortly going to become the executive Vice President at Freedom House for strategies and programs so we're very excited about the continued work that will have with Nicole, and her new role. sarah mendelson: Today we are talking about something that is near and dear to Carnegie mellon university to science college, and that is the role of technology and disinformation. sarah mendelson: What has to be done at heights we pride ourselves of thinking about ourselves as at the intersection of people policy. sarah mendelson: Society and technology so we're very excited to have with US ambassador eileen donahoe, who is the Executive Director of the global digital. sarah mendelson: Digital policy incubator at Stanford university a global multi stakeholder collaboration hub for development of policies that reinforce human rights and democratic values in digitized.
sarah mendelson: Society Ambassador donahoe served as a US ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Obama administration. sarah mendelson: A body that the US will run for in 2022 and hopefully rejoin. sarah mendelson: she's also worked with Human Rights Watch as Director of global affairs with a particular focus on digital rights cyber security and Internet governance and earlier in her career as a lawyer.
sarah mendelson: She was a tech litigator at fenwick and West in Silicon Valley verizon is a senior tech and policy advisor with the Institute for Security and technology. sarah mendelson: she's a recognized leader in driving strategy research and policy development at the intersection of technology disinformation and influence campaigns cyber security, human rights. sarah mendelson: and global conflict.
sarah mendelson: So you can see, we have two experts that are particularly well positioned for your also has a history, both at Twitter. sarah mendelson: As where she led strategy and research, but also in DC with the cna corporation, where she spearheaded initiatives on global influence and advise senior policymakers, military and global leaders on Russia and. sarah mendelson: Europe and and disinformation influence and global conflict so we've got the folks that we need to answer the questions that are before us we're going to start with a pretty broad question. sarah mendelson: we're here to discuss the challenges for democracy that stem from digital tech and disinformation and how. sarah mendelson: The US ability to advance democracy at home and abroad is being hindered so that's the democracy now part.
sarah mendelson: But we also want to talk to you about proposed solutions and that these are solutions that are emerging from this task force that I mentioned. sarah mendelson: So the recommendations for democracy next but let's start with the challenges from your vantage point eileen. sarah mendelson: What are the primary challenges associated with digital tech and disinformation for democracy today and let's let's start with disinformation, what does the threat look like From the vantage point of 2021. sarah mendelson: Great. Eileen Donahue: Nice gigantic question.
Eileen Donahue: Well, first of all thank you for convening us it's always great to see you and have opportunity to have a conversation with veera. Eileen Donahue: So let me start at the very big picture and briefly say we have to start by recognizing the digital transformation of society. Eileen Donahue: has been you know quote unquote very disruptive for democracy in a variety of ways, there are many features of digital society that are inherently challenging. Eileen Donahue: digitization of everything you know makes mass ubiquitous surveillance possible that's challenging in a democracy, the basic cross border mode of.
Eileen Donahue: How the Internet works is challenging because it provides extraterritorial reach to at malign actors all over the world that's another type of security threat. Eileen Donahue: And I think we've also seen a trend toward the privatization of governance, because of the growing power of the private sector that's another so Those are just some of the. Eileen Donahue: features of our new Internet driven digitized society that are inherently challenging to democracy and my big picture concerns are we have an erosion of confidence in the feasibility. Eileen Donahue: Hearing to democratic values in this in this context and we there's a lot of that's being caused by tension between democracies over what protection of fundamental rights should even look like. Eileen Donahue: What a appropriate regulatory regime would look like and all of this is happening. Eileen Donahue: You know we're fighting with ourselves, we are inwardly focused, we are focused on private sector companies, primarily in the US.
Eileen Donahue: At the same time, we have this big trend of digital authoritarianism, a big rising trend over there. Eileen Donahue: And so my my my probably my biggest worry is that we are not paying enough attention to that big geopolitical threat but we'll save that to the disinformation threat what you know we've all been really preoccupied with the threat of disinformation since 2016 i'm sure many of you have. Eileen Donahue: But there has been a big change between 2016 and now and. Eileen Donahue: Back then, when everybody was completely caught off guard the primary threat actor what were maligned foreign actors, particularly Russia using fabricated personas in authentic amplification. Eileen Donahue: And everybody in the national security and cyber security community was basically caught off guard and the primary vehicle was social media.
Eileen Donahue: Fast forward to election time 2020 or up to almost today, the primary threat actors are domestic. Eileen Donahue: And Oh, by the way, in the context of the United States, in fact, it was the President of the United States. Eileen Donahue: As this single person who was leading disinformation, whether it was related to the election, or the entire year about coven, and that is a gigantic game changer when, instead of having malign foreign actors your worry is that its domestic actors and it's. Eileen Donahue: The President. Eileen Donahue: Second, big change is that. Eileen Donahue: it's not just social media that we have to look at it and recognize it is the entire information realm that has been poisoned by disinformation and that's because all different vehicles are being utilized.
Eileen Donahue: You know the President getting out at the bully pulpit in the Rose garden, or you know, wherever. Eileen Donahue: Then mainstream media carrying what the President is saying, because it's newsworthy they're not even intentionally spreading disinformation but they're carrying disinformation because it's newsworthy. Eileen Donahue: Then you've got opinion and table and talk radio intentionally spreading it. Eileen Donahue: And then, on top of that, you also have social media where they've been confused about an halting in their policies, about whether to leave it up or take it down. Eileen Donahue: And so I think that the big change is entire information realm and has been poisoned this is almost like putin's wildest dream because.
Eileen Donahue: You know, yes, he started something in 2016 but what the fulfillment of it is we now in the United States have a culture where nothing is true. Eileen Donahue: And it we are being destroyed from within, including by the former President of the United States and so. Eileen Donahue: You know that's that's the big change i'll stop there, but you know we could get into some of the other concerns about government response private sector response, and you know what could be done there. sarah mendelson: yeah I mean from one perspective, namely the kremlin's this has been a wildly effective investment that's gone completely viral and not, not only in this country, and we should talk about you know or the work with allies, but zero, what do you want to add, particularly on the global context. sarah mendelson: And you want to unmute yourself because it's 2021 right.
Vera Zakem: yeah yeah there you go again, first of all thank you to you. Vera Zakem: Sarah and Heinz college for having me it's. Vera Zakem: Absolutely always delightful to be in a conversation with a lead just been a wonderful colleague to this whole process.
Vera Zakem: Of course you, so I will add to what eileen said absolutely we have pretty fundamental shifts in this digitized world that has had a pretty. Vera Zakem: significant impact in the information realm and information ecosystem and just to even double down to what. Vera Zakem: eileen said part of it part of the digitize works coloring this whole conversation around this information is people having in the globe on the global context and even, especially in the developing world, having.
Vera Zakem: Lack of access, not just to Internet but to credible information, which also colors in that you know i'm sure we'll talk about digital authoritarianism because depending on. Vera Zakem: where you are, that also is a huge concern, but to have both you and eileen talked about you know yeah the landscape globally has changed and Oh, by the way. Vera Zakem: You know, we talked about Russia, you know here in America we were kind of woken up to it it's thousand 16 but Russia has been up to its tracks.
Vera Zakem: using his playbook way before 2016 I mean, I think we can look back to. Vera Zakem: Even the the earliest signs are 2007 attack in Estonia and then 2008 Russia, Georgia war were, in my view, they were kind of testing sort of the information operation tools and techniques. Vera Zakem: versus cyber and then, when we came to Ukraine, they were kind of perfecting them and then this kind of brought him Elia fluids, and there is a distinction there to Africa to Latin America two parts of the Middle East coast spread. Vera Zakem: So when it came to the United States through kind of like oh my God haha right, but then they've been doing this, and now this, the one thing I will say well we'll talk about it and I lead mentioned this and i'm in violent violent violent agreement with eileen.
Vera Zakem: And I think she knows i'm going to see now is that disinformation people think of this information because of social media platforms, because of course information is rapidly spread online in nanoseconds. Vera Zakem: And, but the thing is it really is not just the digital problem. Vera Zakem: You know it's a lighting lead talked about it, you know, the former President of the United States was the whole kind of using if you will mouthpiece for it, you have other authoritarian leaders around the world. Vera Zakem: There are you know spreading disinformation stay sponsor propaganda on mainstream media and let's also not forget things like ski me the Russian world or Confucius institutes all over China or are sort of you know.
Vera Zakem: friends and family networks and the power that has you know you're more likely to spread a piece of information, whether it's dis or misinformation or credible information. Vera Zakem: If you think it's coming from a trusted source, so all that is to say it's a much broader Milan influence piece, the one last thing i'll. sarah mendelson: Add to this.
Vera Zakem: I think what we saw also in. Vera Zakem: 2020 because of the because of coven and infer dynamic the Miss distant from dismiss information around. Vera Zakem: The covert 19 pandemic is we've seen other actors, especially China, but not only exclusively China because they've been both domestic actors and other foreign actors, but i'll just give an example of China.
Vera Zakem: Also, using for example kremlin's playbook in spreading. Vera Zakem: disinformation as well and it's not just account creation on social media but also just amplification and oftentimes they don't need to do a lot, they can just amplify lot of the narratives that are being spread in our example by Americans. Vera Zakem: They you know they just have to do amplify they don't have to do a whole lot of work.
sarah mendelson: Right, yes, no, I think your point about oh seven and oh eight, you know if you were a Russia specialist you were particularly focused on. sarah mendelson: The April 2007 the moving of the statue most of our audience won't know anything about that or what happened, but basically there was an attack on Estonian Internet. sarah mendelson: And it's conceivable that my former colleague from the National Democratic institute now parliamentary. sarah mendelson: parliamentarian said again Monica was behind it, who knows I don't think he was operating by himself. sarah mendelson: But there was a moment when we really lost a generation of specialist who were focused on Russia.
sarah mendelson: And we then lost a lot of focus on, I mean just not a lot of people were focused on Estonia or Georgia and they missed all of that, but also RT Russia today was stood up in oh seven I went to interview. sarah mendelson: The head of RT and she wouldn't let me tape the interview which said to me, she wasn't actually a journalist. sarah mendelson: But so there's a there's a larger context for all of this, that has happened, and of course come into our own living rooms. sarah mendelson: we've talked about the challenges we've laid out the sort of the landscape let's talk for a second about solutions, particularly solutions to. sarah mendelson: The disinformation threat i'm we can talk a little bit about education but let's let's talk about what you both are seeing and talking about in terms of the task force for why don't you lead us off on some recommendations. Vera Zakem: Sure, so i'll kind of give you a couple of.
Vera Zakem: Big. Vera Zakem: If you will buckets are big things that we've been thinking of, and to kind of frame and i'd be delighted for alien to add to them. Vera Zakem: And I mean, first of all, I think, especially in 2020 we've seen this where our democracy has been a little bit of disarray than we had January six. Vera Zakem: That has been it wasn't just an attack insurrection attack on our capital, you know we have to really look at what really got us there. Vera Zakem: I say all of this, because I think one of the key recommendations I think we do make in our task force as a whole is We really need to get our own house in order, that if we're going to position ourselves. Vera Zakem: advancing democracy and promoting democracy, globally, we have to do this at home, and that is without a question has to do, around.
Vera Zakem: The challenge of disinformation and also stopping the spread of online hayden craftsman separate issue, but there are correlations because, especially women. Vera Zakem: And marginalized communities have been particularly effective, so that in that in the United States and around the world. Vera Zakem: So our first recommendation is really about getting the house in order, your House in the United States, in order that is right now, we do not have we, the United States, a holistic strategy. Vera Zakem: To address the disinformation challenge in the United States, so that is something that we explore in the task force, and then we advocate it's not just enough to pull.
Vera Zakem: Highly you know how do we work with partners allies for sure to counter the threats, but how do we also ensure that we're working with in pulling in all instruments of us. Vera Zakem: tower whether it's the intelligence community. Vera Zakem: US agency for International Development usc GM homeless US Department of Homeland Security, because but Oh, by the way, as we talked about disinformation is both foreign and domestic. Vera Zakem: but also how really critical and important it is to work with private sector partners. Vera Zakem: and civil society because they're not just the problem child, they are critical to the solution, because as part of the early warning detection. Vera Zakem: So again, the first is creating that strategy, perhaps supporting a senior official to really coordinate the second is, I think.
Vera Zakem: That big bucket in terms of recommendations is, we also need to lead on that global there's a number of ways to do this. Vera Zakem: You know there's a lot of you know there's already been proposed various kind of different groupings, if you will techno democratic groupings. Vera Zakem: on ways to do that, but one way to potentially of course there's a couple of things one signing on to certain you know agreements that we have yet to sign on just like like the Paris call. Vera Zakem: In the election pledge and by political candidates, but also, perhaps, creating a global task force that can be within.
Vera Zakem: New or existing groupings that really deals with information integrity and countering disinformation and kind of online heating harassment. Vera Zakem: Then the other one i'll mention is how important it is to really there's no to really build societal resilience and the response. Vera Zakem: To this challenge and then again, I think. Vera Zakem: i'm heartened to hear that now Ambassador power and once she is confirmed, will be elevated to the Cabinet level, because I think this is the right thing to do, that we elevate development we also elevate diplomacy, because. Vera Zakem: These are also very critical tools to building resilience so it's everything from ensuring that folks have access to Internet access to credible information. Vera Zakem: That we promote tech entrepreneurs, so we don't just have us based International multinational companies they're pushing information, but we generate this globally, particularly not just in Europe but in global South.
Vera Zakem: But it also teaching folks about digital literacy and cyber education even things like two factor authentication and the very last i'll say. Vera Zakem: I cannot remiss to not mention, and we can certainly talk about this, you know I think the time has come for Congress to take meaningful stuffs any meaningful action. Vera Zakem: On this sets of challenges, you know, especially when regards there's obviously social media companies in section 230, which is the little section.
Vera Zakem: I created the Internet in the 1996 communications act, but the idea here is that is the key to Congress and however that falls in this Congress is really ensuring that we push for transparency. Vera Zakem: Accountability and audit ability of social media platforms, but in my view, is don't let's not just make them, if you will, like I said the problem child, but there is a real, meaningful opportunity to work with them. Vera Zakem: to spread that information environment so i'll stop there, I know it was a lot the. sarah mendelson: Regulation aspect will come back to that we have a ton of questions in the in the chat function eileen anything you want to point out on the promising solutions front.
sarah mendelson: And you're still on mute. Eileen Donahue: I may just leave it. Eileen Donahue: Yes, and i'm going to try to join it up and following a lot of questions in chat so somebody much earlier asked what can legally be done, and so that goes to the regulatory you know what government should do and then what, what can the private sector do. Eileen Donahue: I would say, let me start with what governments should not do, because one of the real problems is democratically oriented governments are, I would argue, taking the wrong regulatory approach to this subject it's particularly seen in Europe. Eileen Donahue: Next, DG, the French via law, which was already struck down the UK White Paper and even the digital services act. Eileen Donahue: What they're doing wrong is they are focusing on platform liability for content.
Eileen Donahue: User generated content which actually is the linchpin of free expression on the Internet and they're not focusing on what the platforms actually themselves do, which is the algorithmic promotion of. Eileen Donahue: disinformation and so that shift in perspective is, I think, an important move. Eileen Donahue: second thing we see around the world that governments are doing in democratic cultures mixed free unfree medium free is criminalization of disinformation itself. Eileen Donahue: Also, not a good idea for this, if you are a democracy, because it, you know the power rests with the people, deciding what counts is disinformation and generally it's what's not in their interest, and so we have seen this even in the covert context criminalizing.
Eileen Donahue: sources of information that are not authorized by the government, you know misinformation about what the government has done or not done. Eileen Donahue: That criminalizing content is not is not the right way, the right way for democratic government is a someone else in the chat said privacy start with privacy regulation to protect you know against. Eileen Donahue: microtargeting of disinformation advertising that's not accurate, that the users generally don't want second on that I will underscore the point of your made about. Eileen Donahue: The it sounds so boring and sound so like you've heard this a million times, transparency and accountability. Eileen Donahue: It the reason those things are so important is that users don't understand exactly what's going on on the platforms.
Eileen Donahue: Regulators don't understand the effects of algorithms and therefore they can't regulate in ways that actually address the problem that's why it's so important. Eileen Donahue: The second part of it is you want to empower users to to control what's in their information flows and also to have procedural rights to make sure when content is taken down. Eileen Donahue: They have remedies for that you basically want to change the power dynamics that's why transparency, accountability and a focus on user procedural rights is so important.
Eileen Donahue: The other, but another piece, that is so important for governments to do is really. Eileen Donahue: It again cliche but so underdeveloped, certainly in our democracy and in most democracies is building civic resilience, not by criminalizing speech, not by imposing liability on platforms, but a. Eileen Donahue: Digital and media literacy, especially for the digital realm Second, this is another from your questions over here. Eileen Donahue: We need norms for mainstream media about reporting on docs hacked material and disinformation that they need to step back and understand they are unintentionally propagating. Eileen Donahue: garbage and distracting the public, because they don't have the right set of norms about what is required of reporting and we have colleagues at Stanford.
Eileen Donahue: Who janine zakaria and Andy grado put out a 10 point plan for the media just simple practices in your newsrooms for how to do that and then another thing is, we need new norms for politicians. Eileen Donahue: The transatlantic Commission on election integrity put out a pledge if we have a problem where i'll just say in our country and then i'd say we have a. Eileen Donahue: Very dominant strand of one of our major parties that is using disinformation as a political strategy and intentional political strategy.
Eileen Donahue: That cannot be acceptable in the United States, and we need new norms. Eileen Donahue: On political rhetoric and what's expected I don't think you can you can't regulate that you can't protect not the United States, with the first amendment, but we should be changing norms and I also think we need civic education to the country back together. sarah mendelson: Well, so I see are here to particularly large public policy. sarah mendelson: proposals coming out of what you're saying, including the creation of course there they have a lot of relevance for. sarah mendelson: CMU and other institutions of higher education, one is the creation of public interest technologists that we need a whole generation.
sarah mendelson: That has a completely different understanding of social media technology, information space digitization algorithms etc number one. sarah mendelson: And whether or not you know there's some efforts out there, but we know the Ford foundation has been supporting it we've been part of that but. sarah mendelson: there's a need for a completely scaled up effort on this front and the other is this issue of civic education. sarah mendelson: Media literacy, a real sort of I mean there are lots of aspects of public education that needs to be addressed but growing the next generation. sarah mendelson: That is literate is is important let's turn for a second we've been talking about transparency but let's talk about digital authoritarianism, because I think solutions that work in one context, may not even have a chance and another context.
sarah mendelson: What, how do you define digital authoritarianism and what do we do about it, how do we combat it what's the threat to to democracy island, you want to start us off and then we'll go to Vera well. Eileen Donahue: So, as I said at the very top My biggest concern not there's a lot of chaos in within democracies in terms of dealing with disinformation. Eileen Donahue: And the digital transformation of society and there's a lot of confusion. Eileen Donahue: While we're all inwardly focused, this is there is a much larger trend going on, which is this trend toward digital materials for me what that entails is number one.
Eileen Donahue: role modeling utilization of digital technologies for repressive purposes so basically rather than thinking about the open interoperable Internet as a means of free expression and expanding access to information. Eileen Donahue: it's primarily used for mass ubiquitous surveillance and censorship, to restrict access to information restrict what can be said. Eileen Donahue: Second point is export of these technologies for repression so normalizing them around the globe and part of that export is. Eileen Donahue: Export of information infrastructure it's not just surveillance technology censorship technology if you are exporting an entire information system. Eileen Donahue: From a country like China, which is where it's largely coming from what that means is you are china's gaining leverage over those societies for decades to come and. Eileen Donahue: embedded in there are vulnerabilities about having your citizens data sucked out and utilize and just other types of political leverage that come from dependence on upgrades from an authoritarian power, the third big piece of digital authoritarian is just this.
Eileen Donahue: its influence in the normative realm and the diplomatic realm that has just skyrocketed so a it's in technology standard and protocol setting bodies. Eileen Donahue: Where there's an influence over interoperability standards for the future that are biased toward the technologies from authoritarians and then in more normative arenas. Eileen Donahue: The the norms of the you know the original concept that human rights should be protected online and as offline you know, only a decade ago was that foundational idea established at the Human Rights Council, we now have. Eileen Donahue: The majority of governments at the Human Rights Council, supporting a Chinese statements about their use of technology and xingjiang and in Hong Kong to quash dissent. Eileen Donahue: As legitimate and as consistent with human rights principles completely absurd So those are the primary elements and last point, I will say here is. Eileen Donahue: This is the tricky part for for those of us in democracies we've we have started to see technology through such a negative lens we've had the swing of the pendulum from you know naive.
Eileen Donahue: awakening and we now we're into it's all terrible and we're so focused on the downside risks. Eileen Donahue: What China understands they have massively invested in technology and innovation, and they know all forms of power, economic, military geopolitical and normative power flow from that dominance. Eileen Donahue: And so we have to, we have to do two things at once, we have to invest in the technology and when the technology battle and when that normative battle they go hand in hand. sarah mendelson: Pure do you want to add anything on the digital authoritarianism before I push a bit on the values based vision. Vera Zakem: yeah sure I mean, I think, just to to to finger, I guess, two points here to the piece about actually restricting the information I mean this is by me sure when you think about authoritarian regimes.
Vera Zakem: you're on China, Russia, others, this is state sponsored propaganda you're only able to get the information that you're able to get from there, I mean me not say I was, I was born so. Vera Zakem: I did, I remember some of this stuff, you know as a child even you know, but this, this is what it is, and I cannot also. Vera Zakem: Just underscore the point that I lean made about technology innovation in infrastructure, this is a huge thing that China is doing, for example with 5g. Vera Zakem: Right, I mean think about the gaps that is trying to fill in Africa gaps in western Africa, for example, and you share in Nigeria and other countries.
Vera Zakem: In Latin America and all, by the way, it's also filling the gap in Europe. Vera Zakem: And so right now with Europe with the European Union and European partners, there is this kind of a little bit of a push pull this like friction. Vera Zakem: Because now we're trying to now re enter where you know, if you will, the international stage and reinvigorate our partnerships in Europe, but China.
Vera Zakem: Particularly their investments in 5g and infrastructure it, you know, been pushing your upon that so there have been questions, even in Europe on digital sovereignty, so I say all of that it's, not just in the developing world, but developed world as well, where digital authoritarianism. sarah mendelson: Sometimes I have trouble distinguishing between so called developing and develop world. sarah mendelson: So i'm going to read a paragraph from the task force draft democracies must recognize, we are in a geopolitical battle over the digital governance model that will dominate in the 21st century. sarah mendelson: This presents an existential threat not just to US economic and national security, but also to our values based vision for the Internet and that's to open democratic digital society.
sarah mendelson: Rebuilding international support for a global open secure and reliable Internet. sarah mendelson: will require robust diplomacy strong US leadership is urgently needed to develop a shared democratic framework for human rights based regulation. sarah mendelson: and use of digital technology and a plan to combat the digital authoritarian model we've just been talking about this, but I want to push you on this a little bit. sarah mendelson: Is it possible to get a values based vision of the Internet and a digital society if so how or are we destined to have with some are calling the splinter net. Eileen Donahue: wow yes so. Eileen Donahue: The part of what's going on on the regulatory front is the splinter debt and it's happening, as you say, also in democratic countries.
Eileen Donahue: It stems largely from fear about the security vulnerabilities that come with being digitally connected societies it's some of the fear is about disinformation some of the fear is about information operations cross border information operations. Eileen Donahue: Some of it is various types of hacking fears and. Eileen Donahue: All of those things are pushing governments to move away from that original vision of a global open interoperable Internet toward this concept of cyber sovereignty or digital sovereignty and. Eileen Donahue: The authoritarian version of that is completely antithetical to a democratic order it's basically antithetical to.
Eileen Donahue: The post World War Two liberal international order, where one of the pillars of that international order the normative pillar established international human rights concepts which provided a universal basis for for establishing the rights of citizens, wherever they are, and. Eileen Donahue: An a normative basis for critique from the outside, in this is what authoritarians would love to have go in the dustbin of history and that's part of why China in particular is pushing this cyber sovereignty idea. Eileen Donahue: What and what comes with it is you don't get to critique what we do with our digital tech with our own people in xingjiang Hong Kong elsewhere. Eileen Donahue: The the The concern is we see variations like cyber sovereignty light digital sovereignty light emerging in many places.
Eileen Donahue: Particularly in Europe on gullah Merkel has advocated for digital a variation of digital sovereignty and, to a large extent veera sort of pointed to this. Eileen Donahue: it's almost as though the impetus, there is to protect against us tech companies rather than from malign actors in the authoritarian realm, and so this is this is. Eileen Donahue: That problem that the tensions between democracies is a very important thing, and you know, one of the primary. Eileen Donahue: recommendations, we must heal the rift between democratic company countries over. Eileen Donahue: appropriate use of technology and data and appropriate regulation of technology that's consistent with human rights that's almost the first step and we even say we've really got to heal the transatlantic rift.
sarah mendelson: mm hmm. Eileen Donahue: He can heal that part. sarah mendelson: Very good. Eileen Donahue: yeah you know what, not to say the rest of the world is unimportant. Eileen Donahue: But we can't see eye to eye or find a way to trust each other, but let me just step back and say your it's a very valid concern I don't know that we will ever get back to the original vision global that. Eileen Donahue: doesn't mean we're moving into splinter net it's happening, you know.
Eileen Donahue: President trump executive order you know take tick tick tock kind of cam here India that got overturned tick tock is not an India anymore, and all kinds of content are restricted, I mean there's it's happening all over the world in so many forms, Internet shutdowns. Eileen Donahue: Regulation of content there's form after form after form of splintering of what used to be, we will never get the whole thing back, but what we must get back is a shared democratic human rights based approach to regulation of technology and utilization of data and technology by both. Eileen Donahue: The private governments that is consistent with human rights principle that's hard work. sarah mendelson: there's clearly got to be a line of work going into the summit for democracy in the space of.
sarah mendelson: Both domestic reform but also combating authoritarianism, that is democracies, working together, specifically on this digital aspect, I can see an entire you know working group over months. sarah mendelson: Let me just go to one question that's that's piggybacks on a couple different themes. sarah mendelson: Some folks are asking about the difference between disinformation and misinformation and being clear about that, but then there's this question about whether or not in the scope goes to the issue of both political norms, but also the mainstreaming of disinformation. sarah mendelson: One audience Member notes that there are seven or more sessions at sea pack about addressing election fraud. sarah mendelson: This is particularly painful because USA ID around the world works with and also within the UN colleagues on combating election fraud actual election fraud and for a large number of Americans to believe that there was widespread election fraud, despite the professional. sarah mendelson: Leaders inside States saying that there wasn't is is particularly calling.
sarah mendelson: Who wants to go first on this information versus misinformation. Vera Zakem: and have this issue yeah i'm happy to start there. Vera Zakem: So first so just to be clear, I think you know these terms of kind of used interchangeably, and so it is very important to kind of differentiate disinformation is the strategic intent. Vera Zakem: To sprint falsehoods and lies to achieve your to achieve a countries or individual state or non State Actors specific objectives, usually most cases is to cause harm. Vera Zakem: misinformation, it is that benign spread of.
Vera Zakem: falsehood, or even conspiracy theories oh hey, by the way it can be a half truth that I call it half truth in a sea of lies right or maybe you see a succession sensationalist headlines. Vera Zakem: Like oh it's coming from a reputable source, it must be true, and you as a responsible citizen who normally would not be. Vera Zakem: Spreading this kind of stuff end up sharing that information, whether it's social media or with friends and family, I think the point on the polarization. Vera Zakem: of disinformation Sarah that you pointed out regarding election fraud that has become. Vera Zakem: A huge concern in the United States, and I think that to me that concern is really it's almost kind of resembling what we have been witnessing, those of us who've been following authoritarian regimes around the world.
Vera Zakem: let's kind of behavior and not come to the United States and to the point that I leave made earlier it again did not come as a vacuum, we had. Vera Zakem: We have a former president who has been sort of the mouthpiece and continues to really overpower a key part of the Republican Party on this, and so, when we talk wholesome. Vera Zakem: healing the getting our own house in order in the United States and healing this rift this is part of it, but you know part of it here's The other thing I will say.
Vera Zakem: You know, education, digital literacy hygiene, you know, making sure you're talking to your friends and neighbors all of that good stuff getting civics education. Vera Zakem: All of that good stuff is important leading normatively you know and diplomatically and all these issues, but I think we also have to come to a realization there are going to be. Vera Zakem: People who are going to live in air filter bubbles in is going to be really, really hard to persuade them one way or another. Vera Zakem: And at the end of the day, still in my humble opinion, the best thing to do is to lead the truth to lead the data to lead the evidence as a democratic society, those in education, those to me, are some of the best sources of Defense.
sarah mendelson: there's clearly a large national project on truth and trust has to be the platform I think for. sarah mendelson: rejuvenating democracy you know when I was at a ID we we focused a lot on cybersecurity, but we would also focus on physical security, this is for human rights defenders that anything you're doing. sarah mendelson: Online there's got to be an offline equivalent eileen we have a lot of questions from folks is it Okay, if I move on to the next one, or do you want to get in on this. Eileen Donahue: throw it in i'll put it together.
sarah mendelson: Okay Well, this is a really important question about. sarah mendelson: technical capabilities. sarah mendelson: To track disinformation from inception to dissemination, I know that Kate starboard former Stanford women's basketball player who's a u dub. sarah mendelson: Who I follow on Twitter talks a lot about this being able to track, but from a technical perspective eileen are very how how well are we set up to be able to find you know into that Russian bought or whoever is is starting whatever conspiracy theory or rumor.
Eileen Donahue: Just make i'm not an expert on the diagnostic sides there's so many brilliant people who spend all of their time doing that. Eileen Donahue: Eating cake starboard of the top line idea, though, is we were nowhere in 2016 and everybody has upped their game and we've become so much more sophisticated about it all, which is part of why Chris Krebs was able to say out loud the the guy, who was a. sarah mendelson: sort of the DHS. Eileen Donahue: yeah you know who was in terms of responsible for election security said we just had the most secure election in history.
Eileen Donahue: department, but let me this dovetails with the prior question and then brought up political norms and election fraud claims that see Pack. Eileen Donahue: it's almost as though the problem is less now about actual infiltration i'm not saying that's over don't don't ever think that's over that's always going to be with us in we are always vulnerable, you will never. Eileen Donahue: Have security in the digital realm, but we can get much better at the cat and mouse. Eileen Donahue: But what has now happened is that this information from within has almost become a bigger problem, because you can claim if you don't like the outcome of an election you're going to say election fraud. Eileen Donahue: And if you think the covert virus is going to hurt your election chances, you can say it's a hoax. Eileen Donahue: And so.
Eileen Donahue: This is easy, this is our This is our problem, and your point about truth and trust. Eileen Donahue: I fear you know think back to post World War Two but we created this norms based international order democratic Internet liberal order. Eileen Donahue: What it came after eight world crisis, I World War and a crisis, and I fear it is going to take a crisis of similar proportions to get the United States to come together. Eileen Donahue: And we believe in truth again and it's our security depends on it, because we're not there now we are so polarized, and this is, this is the heartbreaking part about. Eileen Donahue: Putin succeeding in creating this culture of you can you can you can fabricate any political narrative you want, and when the political narrative. Eileen Donahue: That that does not work in a democracy, so it's a big problem and I, I think we I think it's very hard to solve, and I hope we find a way to make progress without a World War and we.
sarah mendelson: got 12 minutes left I don't want to leave people in a really negative space which word very tickets on the technology piece to this. Vera Zakem: yeah so know for sure i'm going to kind of piggyback to what eileen said, and I want to answer to your technology piece and sort of the diagnostic piece of the I can answer that one. Vera Zakem: Too exactly to if, if I can make it to piggyback to eileen said, if I could get one point across all of this. Vera Zakem: Truth and trust this has to be a big part of the summit of democracy in the working groups, if we do not as citizens global citizens do not trust in information.
Vera Zakem: That we consume and the information that is delivered by our leaders democracy cannot deliver it is as simple as that so that's one on the big picture on the technology, I have so i've actually done a good amount of diagnostics and understand the root causes of these issues. Vera Zakem: And I will tell you being also in the private sector public sector looking at this stuff i've been very heartened a lot. Vera Zakem: about the technology and emerging technology, particularly in things like artificial intelligence machine learning and natural language processing that have been on the table to identify.
Vera Zakem: Fake information so identify bots identify and authentic behavior and accounts and how those narratives actually amplify and spread not only I think their social media companies now doing it, the big ones that. Vera Zakem: Everyone knows about but there's a lot of other even startups in the startup ecosystem, there are really on the market. Vera Zakem: That are not just identifying they're trying to figure out and make the correlation about the impact about what is the perception and a sentiment behind on. Vera Zakem: Those bots behind those directives and actually the impact that they have on population, so if china's spreading you know some sort of a narrative distant from Iran disinformation narrative a washer. Vera Zakem: or Q amp or whoever it is the one thing that we need more investment of I think this is a bigger conversation. Vera Zakem: Really truly understand the impact of these threat actors, both state and non state.
Vera Zakem: But one of the bigger issues that I think, which is going to be a big thing that certainly for this administration moving forward is really ultimately and also understand the impact of. Vera Zakem: Our efforts, our response mechanisms, and I think we should also invest in some technological solutions to in that as well. sarah mendelson: When you say a response mechanisms, what do you mean exactly. Vera Zakem: What the impact of our strategy So how do we know that if we're proposing resilience measures. Vera Zakem: If we're proposing certain countermeasures, how do we know that they're actually working and resonating with the targeted segments of the populations, whether we're talking about in the US or in developing countries around the world, because ultimately, if you don't know the impact.
Vera Zakem: that's what you have heard figure out, do we need to invest more of that and subsequently invest, you know request additional dollars from Congress that's. sarah mendelson: Let me ask. sarah mendelson: A two pronged question one is, is there any country out there, that you think is doing, especially well in terms of the civic education piece on and I.
sarah mendelson: Would posit maybe Estonia, maybe Sweden, but also on the issue of God in this is very inside the Beltway but. sarah mendelson: Government response in the sense of what specific recommendations, do you have for the Biden administration what piece of bureaucratic architecture is missing. sarah mendelson: that we need to help address these issues, whether it's at state or DHS or I mean do we need a new agency I hate to even suggest that but I suspect we can embed somewhere some combination of God or DHS or or our state eileen you want to go first. Eileen Donahue: Sure, so on the civic resilience piece, apparently, Finland is the elite. sarah mendelson: Again, Finland, Finland on so many levels right happiness. sarah mendelson: sd geez I mean they're just hitting it out of the park.
Vera Zakem: In country, I was gonna. Eileen Donahue: say. Vera Zakem: I was with the same country, I was going to mention.
Eileen Donahue: And I have to, I have to say. Eileen Donahue: Apparently, a big part of it is really it's trust it's trust between citizens and the government so when the government is trying to engage in civic education. Eileen Donahue: Half the population doesn't say I don't believe in that, and I think I have to admit there's probably a little bit more homogeneity within the culture. Eileen Donahue: So there. Eileen Donahue: are less polarized there are fewer others it's a little bit more we're all in this together and that's a big piece of it, so we have to work on those things in it very diverse culture, how do we understand ourselves as being in it together and in terms of government response bureaucratically.
Eileen Donahue: A couple of things we recommend in the report, well first first off. Eileen Donahue: Just in January as as as he was walking out the door former Secretary of State pompeo announced the creation of a new. Eileen Donahue: euro at the State Department for cyberspace security and emerging technology, I will also mentioned that there has been a cyber diplomacy act rattling.
Eileen Donahue: For the last year it got through, I think the House like some level of it, the House it didn't get to the Senate, and it is just been reintroduced and that cyber diplomacy Act has a really good take on the need for. Eileen Donahue: Cyber diplomacy and the importance of diplomacy on the normative dimensions of technology policy. Eileen Donahue: So that's and I, and I think I don't know the inside scoop, but I think that the rush to get the cyber bureau moving. Eileen Donahue: As I understand that there's a little bit of tension over he was underdeveloped and it didn't adequately embed the concepts and the.
Eileen Donahue: purposes outlined in the cyber diplomacy act, and I think there's some reconciliation going on there that's really important, and then the other thing we we advocated for is just. Eileen Donahue: At the nsc greater focus again, not just on traditional aspects of cyber security which, of course, are very important and needs to be better in the United States. Eileen Donahue: But the normative the interplay between formative concern and cyber security, I mean that. Eileen Donahue: Strangely it's it's really hard to get your head around conceptually, but when information is the weapon uh huh. Eileen Donahue: You have a tension between your desire for security and your desire for freedom of expression and if we choose to give up freedom of expression in the name of security, we have.
sarah mendelson: underway now we've seen that before. sarah mendelson: Before. Eileen Donahue: we've got to figure out. sarah mendelson: Fear anything to add. Vera Zakem: yeah yeah absolutely so just a real touch point on the nsc first without a question I think this needs to be elevated much more holistically as eileen said, I think it also just needs to be coordinated, as we talked about these challenges that we're talking about disinformation. Vera Zakem: Aspects of digital authoritarianism and digital governance in diplomacy, there is now this very much of this blend intersection between domestic and foreign I think there needs to be really strong coordination between the.
Vera Zakem: The leadership at nsc and the dpc domestic policy Council, and I think it's because it's also affecting American. Vera Zakem: So that's what that I double down on what I lead just said about see set this new Bureau I think we're going to have to see how it is actually developed because. Vera Zakem: Again, this is not just about tools emerging tech tools and even within the disinformation space, but it is ability to position ourselves. Vera Zakem: To be able to use diplomacy to engage with our partners and allies and to lead on the digital diplomacy as well.
Vera Zakem: We don't talk too much on the gap, but I think either big X mission, we need to be expanded or reimagine and I think part of it we'll have to see how it plays with see said, the one other thing that I recommend also. Vera Zakem: In one of the sections is that when we if resilience so we're going to say that response and resilience measures to disinformation online hating crass harassment, all this stuff is so important. Vera Zakem: That we really need to elevate that within the government as well, and I think having a senior coordinator or person within us a big potential even reporting to Ambassador power would be a wise thing to do.
Vera Zakem: is to elevate those sets of issues. sarah mendelson: there's also Carnegie mellon has a presence in Silicon Valley. sarah mendelson: Your you have a recommendation of having a State Department office in in Silicon Valley, but I have to say in my exposure I lived there for two years in the early 90s as a pre Doc at Stanford but in going back, for example, when I was at a ID. sarah mendelson: To Stanford into Google for meetings i'm i'm really struck by how little interest, a lot of the tech folks have in the rest of the world.
sarah mendelson: I get the idea that you want to have people there, but the complete it's just my impression it's been confirmed by all sorts of folks. sarah mendelson: A stunning lack of interest in the rest of the world and and a confidence that they somehow know how the world works, we have two minutes lightning round responses. sarah mendelson: i'll never get invited back to Silicon Valley now after that comment but lean veera. Eileen Donahue: um I would, I would say your characterization is very fair but dated game change. Eileen Donahue: They are I when I got to Stanford for years ago and this project.
Eileen Donahue: I felt like I would talk about the relevance of the international human rights law to both the private sector and government as it really and people's eyes would glaze over they will look like like, how is that even relevant. Eileen Donahue: Now they're all shifting toward you and rights impact assessments, if you go look at. Eileen Donahue: Just like board decision making it's all good what's not well here it's geared around three pillars Facebook values Facebook Community guidelines and international human rights law. Eileen Donahue: trend there, and also the freedom online coalition, which is the coalition of governments formed during 20 2011 we Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State Brock Obama. Eileen Donahue: They are creating a working group out there to focus on multi stakeholder policy development because the power dynamics have shifted but govern that platforms can't just say drop dead. Eileen Donahue: We don't care what you think it.
Eileen Donahue: is driven government governments can't say to the company. Eileen Donahue: we're just imposing um you know I think there's more opportunity than when you were there. sarah mendelson: Fair enough, and that was that last big engagement was 2013 so well before all sorts of. sarah mendelson: things that happened theoretic is home. Vera Zakem: Right, so I think, to also I would agree that lean I think there's a lot of emphasis on ensuring that countering misinformation election security, all of these issues.
Vera Zakem: value in terms of human rights it's very much now look to globally and whether we're talking about me, Mr. Vera Zakem: or we're talking about Nigeria or wherever it is, I think it is really become sort of you know a thing, I think, also investments. Vera Zakem: Globally, as well as locally, because even though these companies are us based there in fact in their presence is global and the reaches global, so there are, I think, investments. Vera Zakem: There are being made internationally and the other thing again to point the last point i'll say that I mentioned at the big at the beginning, is.
Vera Zakem: We need to be looking at some of these companies they're not just hey we're gonna they're gonna take down information we need to address the algorithm algorithm the bias and everything, but I think they're critical partner. Vera Zakem: To and making sure that they're part of the table, as well as civil society to have. Vera Zakem: Meaningful lasting change, particularly on the set of issues.
sarah mendelson: So thank you so much for this conversation the Freedom House csis mccain's to task force will be released on April 14 it'll be widely available. sarah mendelson: And we will share it with the Community when it comes out, I want to thank eileen and veera for your service on this task force I lane, for your service in the Obama administration. sarah mendelson: and for your willingness to really take on what I think is probably some of the hardest set of issues that we are confronting in this task force, you know, putting a summit together is yes it's a challenge but. sarah mendelson: there's nothing quite like this, we are in, literally new territory, so thank you for taking on that difficult task, I want to thank everybody else we're going to meet on Tuesday, our next public engagement with the former Secretary of Treasury.
sarah mendelson: For. sarah mendelson: Looking for Stewart levy former Under Secretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence. sarah mendelson: And the focus is going to be on corruption and kleptocracy and incredibly important session, both at here in the United States and around the world, so please join us, that is, on March two at 12 o'clock thanks so much everybody be safe, be well take care bye bye. Thank you.