By Marco Rubio and Mark Warner
July 12, 2018
USA Today Share on Twitter / Facebook
The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report last week concurring with the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The attack included the targeting of election infrastructure, email hacks, weaponized leaks, overt propaganda and a covert, large-scale disinformation effort on social media feeds like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
In many ways, this threat is not new. The Kremlin has been conducting information warfare or “active measures” against the West for decades. What is new, however, are social media tools with the reach and power to magnify propaganda and false information with a scale and precision that would have been unimaginable back in the days of the Berlin Wall.
The Soviet Politburo could only have dreamed of the capability Russia now has to target voters directly in the U.S., Europe and other democracies with propaganda, misinformation and disinformation. Twenty-first century social media tools have the potential to further erode public confidence in western institutions and undermine the shared sense of facts that is supposed to be the foundation of honest political debate.
In 2016, we were taken by surprise. In 2018, there are no excuses. We must be ready.
That is why we are teaming up with legislators from Canada and Europe to sound the alarm. Following this week’s NATO summit, parliamentarians from across Europe and North America will meet Monday in Washington, D.C., the same day President Donald Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki.
Our goal must be to demonstrate to the world that the community of democratic nations does not intend to accede to Putin’s or any other authoritarian’s view of the world. We will resist Russia’s aggression. As legislators, we have a responsibility to address that threat — particularly on social media.
First, as elected officials, we have a duty to use our positions to shine a light on Russia’s actions and capabilities. Utilizing our investigative tools and public platforms, legislators must expose the full scale and scope of Russia’s schemes to weaken democracies.
The two of us are currently engaged in a bipartisan effort in the Senate Intelligence Committee to uncover Russia’s activities during the 2016 elections and publicly detail its array of asymmetric capabilities. Similarly, our colleagues in the British Parliament, led by Damian Collins, are conducting an inquiry on “fake news” and how it was used by both foreign and domestic actors to influence the Brexit vote.
But it is not enough simply to shine a bright light on Russian aggression. As legislators, we also are responsible for crafting and passing laws to protect our democracy while also preserving freedom of expression.
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