Aggressive Malign Influence Threatens to Shape US 2024 Elections
New Insikt Group research outlines malign influence threats to the United States's 2024 elections from various actors, including Russia, China, Iran, domestic violent extremists (DVEs), and hacktivist groups. These entities are expected to engage in influence operations to shape or disrupt the elections for strategic geopolitical purposes. The dynamic global backdrop, including Russia's war with Ukraine, Israel's conflict with Iran-supported Hamas, China's assertiveness on Taiwan, and social media content moderation controversies, creates a conducive environment for aggressive targeting of the 2024 US elections.
The identified overarching influence trends include increasing polarization and undermining confidence in US democratic institutions, reducing domestic support for aiding US allies, and undermining political candidates with unfavorable policies while promoting those with favorable policies. Influence operations are anticipated to employ historical and innovative tactics, including cyber-enabled operations and the integration of generative artificial intelligence.
Additionally, the report warns of the likelihood of DVEs physically attacking and threatening election personnel or infrastructure and an increase in false information surrounding US-deployed voting technologies and voting systems manufacturers from domestic sources as the 2024 elections approach.
Screenshot of RT’s parody video “The 11th Package of Anti-Russian Sanctions Challenge” featuring a deepfake of US president Joe Biden (Source: RT)
The spread of false and manipulated information by state and non-state actors has the potential to influence voter behavior and impact election outcomes. Insikt Group’s findings emphasize that even unsuccessful influence activities can damage public trust in democratic institutions. Advanced actors may leverage official announcements and events opportunistically in pursuit of their objectives.
To counter these threats, a whole-of-government approach integrated with private industry is recommended. This involves publicly identifying, announcing, and refuting false information related to the elections. Prebunking, or proactively addressing misinformation, is suggested as a method to enable the public to discern credible information. Awareness among government officials, public figures, and business executives, along with pre-planned playbooks and responses, is deemed crucial to mitigating risks associated with influence activities.
To read the entire analysis, click here to download the report as a PDF.