The beginner’s guide to foreign interference

The beginner’s guide to foreign interference

27/9/2021 9:30:00 AM

The beginner’s guide to foreign interference

From the United States and United Kingdom to our own shores, foreign interference is very much in the news. But what exactly is it and what can we do about it?

, hundreds of fake or hijacked Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts were producing pro-Chinese government messages about the COVID-19 pandemic. The content was critical of the US and European Union’s handling of the pandemic. The objective? To reduce these governments’ credibility among their citizens.

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Singapore, too, has not been immune to foreign interference. In 1988, the first secretary of the US Embassy’s political section, Mr Hank Hendrickson, had sought out disaffected Singaporean lawyers and urged them to contest in the upcoming elections.Here’s what you should know about foreign interference and the threat it poses to countries around the world.

WHAT IS FOREIGN INTERFERENCE?Foreign interference occurs when agents from a foreign country try to manipulate the domestic politics, actions or policies of their target country to advance their own interests. The idea of foreign interference is nicely summarised by the Gerasimov Doctrine – named after the Russian Military Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.

He stated that the rules of war now include non-kinetic military measures. In the age of social media, hostile foreign actors may use social media and online communication tools to conduct hostile information campaigns. Foreign agents share or forward memes and disinformation to deepen divisions in their target country, stoke hostility between the different groups living there and widen public distrust of the country’s major institutions.

This was seen during the runup to the 2020 US Presidential Election. According to aDepartment of Homeland Security report, Russian agents were aggressively trying to inflame social and racial tensions in the US. A 2019 report stated that Russia aimed to weaken the US by sowing discord and division in the hope of impairing the US’ ability to challenge Russia’s strategic objectives.

Ukraine is another country that has suffered from foreign interference. According to an Atlantic Council report, ever since the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution (which resulted in the country’s elected president, Mr Viktor Yanukovych, being ousted), a Russian

has aimed to undermine trust in the new Ukrainian government. For example, hackers attacked the country’s power grid and foreign agents used bots and fake social media accounts to smear the image of the Ukrainian government.FOLLOW THE MONEYOne way to investigate foreign interference is to trace where the campaign’s funding comes from. In the 1970s, two Singapore newspapers, the Eastern Sun and the Singapore Herald, were discovered to have received foreign funding. These newspapers propagated the editorial lines of their foreign backers. This practice continues today, with recent cases having been discovered in New Zealand.

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In another recent case, wealthy foreign donors were alleged to have bought influence over an Australian senator who eventually. To combat such vectors of foreign interference in politics, Singapore has long banned foreign political donations, and countries such as Australia and New Zealand have recently introduced similar levers as well.

Read more: CNA »

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