“Intelligence Agencies Say Russia Election Threat Persists Amid Ukraine War”

N.Y. Times reports on the ongoing threat of disinformation campaigns from foreign governments, especially Russia, China, and Iran. Remember, though, as pernicious as foreign disinformation operations are, they are not the same as allegations that foreign governments are attacking the voting machines themselves to produce the wrong result in an election. Sometimes the N.Y. Times itself unhelpfully elides this key distinction. For example, the Times Magazine piece on the “Stop the Steal” movement included this: “in 2018, Gallup pollsters found that 78 percent of Democrats believed that Russia changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Those views were formed, however, amid an investigation into the matter by Trump’s own Justice Department and warnings from even Republican state election officials about Russian interference.” There was no recognition in this passage that the mechanism of alleged Russian interference in 2016 was efforts to persuade voters on whether or how to vote. The phrase “Russia changed the outcome of the 2016 election” implies something very different: the direct manipulation by Russia of the counting of ballots. We are going to have a hard time combatting disinformation, whether foreign or domestic, if we fail to maintain this distinction.

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