In 2016, Russian operatives waged an information war, including cyberattacks and inauthentic social media campaigns, designed to stoke political divisions and undermine the U.S. presidential election. Before they became front-page news, Russian influence operations had existed for decades. But in recent years, a range of domestic and international factors — in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere — have spotlighted the dangers of information manipulation campaigns, which now threaten the 2020 election. These drivers, alongside a rapidly evolving information technology and communications landscape, necessitate innovative policy ideas and a whole-of-society approach to protect democratic societies.
On October 2, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted a virtual conference to examine the past, present, and future of disinformation and efforts to combat it. Following welcome remarks by Brookings President John R. Allen, Brookings Senior Fellow Fiona Hill and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster framed the event with a conversation on McMaster’s new book, “Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World.” Then, Hill and Brookings Fellow and Deputy Director of the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative Chris Meserole moderated three panel discussions on the history of Russian influence operations leading up to 2016, the domestic factors that contribute to disinformation and other threats to democracy, and novel strategies for combatting information warfare in the future.
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Policy 2020 events aim to empower voters with fact-based, data-driven, non-partisan information so they can better understand the policy matters discussed in the 2020 election.
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