Chinese Information Warfare and the 2021 Canadian Election: A Case Study in the Vulnerability of Democracy to Foreign Interference and Influence Operations

by Roberto Salegio

January 2022

This paper uses the allegations of Chinese interference in the 2021 election as a case study to explore the impact of disinformation and propaganda on democratic institutions and civil society. It begins with a theoretical analysis of information warfare in order to define some key terms, ideas and concepts. Following this, it examines the China’s overall strategy of information warfare and the role of the UF, then proceeds to an overview of the allegations surrounding Chinese interference in September’s election.

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Social Media and Security: A Double-Edged Sword

BY Kyle McCreanor

March 2022

In his farewell address, former US president Barack Obama called social media the single greatest threat facing modern democracy. President Joe Biden has called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “a real problem”. Scholars and popular media alike have emphasized the apparent threat to democracy, institutions, public health, and individual safety posed by social media. Former product manager with the Facebook ‘civic integrity department’, Frances Haugen, made headlines in 2021 for appearances before the US Senate, blowing the whistle on the social media giant and testifying that the company amplifies extremism, corrodes democracy, and harms children.

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Special Operations and The CIA: Sheep Dips – A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

by Patrick Cooper-Takada

March 2022

The United States Military maintains a number of Special Operations Forces (SOF) units that perform overt, clandestine, and covert operations under the Title 10 Authority of the United States Code. At times, Title 10 is seen as too legally constricting for SOF to perform operations deemed necessary. To maneuver around this, the servicemembers of SOF are temporarily employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, which operates under Title 50 Authority, to circumvent Title 10 legal boundaries—this process is known as “sheep dipping.” This paper examines the role of sheep dipping in SOF, in addition to the residual misinformation and lack of accountability that comes with sheep dipping.

Fake News, Real Violence: Disinformation’s Threat to Canadian Critical Infrastructure

by Marianne Grenier

April 2022

The significant rise and rapid propagation of false information in the past five years, especially in the Western World, is reducing trust in public institutions in Canada and many other countries. I explore the interconnectedness of disinformation targeting institutions and the effects on Canadian critical infrastructure’s (CI) reputation, functioning, and evolution from a political and military perspective. The central question of this research is: What are the potential risks to Canadian CI and lessons to learn from domestic and international instances of disruption to CI as a result of disinformation?

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Rethinking R v Zundel: Challenges and Opportunities for the Regulation of Internet Disinformation

by Joe Byram

May 2022

Disinformation and its regulation pose a series of complex challenges for society. The problems disinformation creates require some level of legal, regulatory, and legislative response. However, any measures must be undertaken in a way that protects freedom of expression. R v Zundel, a 1992 case from the Supreme Court of Canada, is generally seen as an authoritative statement in Canadian law that the regulation of falsehoods and fake news are not “reasonable limits” on the freedom of expression rights created by section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this paper, a preliminary argument to overcome Zundel is presented with a view to guiding the development of constitutionally compliant disinformation regulation.

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The Evolution of Extremist Disinformation on Social Media: Examining the Effectiveness of Deplatforming Initiatives

by Davina Shanti

July 2022

The spread of disinformation through social media has created a complex dilemma of navigating ways to combat false information. Right-wing extremist groups have intentionally shared false and misleading information to promote their ideological platform or influence others into becoming advocates and supporters. This paper addresses the question: How do right-wing extremist groups convey false or misleading narratives through social media, and can this narrative be mitigated effectively through deplatforming initiatives? A case study examines five social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Parler, and Telegram to outline the transition across multiple platforms and develop an understanding of the effectiveness of deplatforming initiatives.

Denial and Deception: Misinformation and the Road to War in Iraq, 1992-2003

On February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell sat before the UN Security Council to “share…what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as well as Iraq’s involvement in terrorism.” Powell’s speech served as the culmination of a decade-long campaign that ended with American armed forces capturing Baghdad on April 9, 2003. At the time of the invasion 72% of Americans were in favour of the war, a testament to the effectiveness of the narrative. Given the fact that a UN inspection team declared that it had found no evidence of the existence of WMD just prior to the invasion2, what role did misinformation play in the pro-war argument? To answer this question, this analysis in four sections unpacks in detail how top American officials built and subsequently sold a misleading narrative to Congress and the American people between 1992 and 2003.

The first section briefly explores American strategic culture and considers the role it plays in shaping narratives and creating myths. Emphasis is placed on how cultural narratives are built and shape policy, as well as how misinformation often infuses this process. The second section looks at the broader evolution of American perceptions of and policy towards Iraq from the Gulf  War to the 2000 presidential election. The goal of this section is  o trace the changing place of Iraq in American foreign policy and strategic culture in the post-Cold War period. The third section focuses on the development of the WMD argument over the same period. It looks at what information was shared with the public, the manner in which this information was shared, and the reaction it produced. The final section looks at how the administration of George W. Bush attempted to connect Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and build the case for invasion both prior to and in the wake of 9/11. Key individuals involved in the building of this narrative include Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well as Rumsfeld’s Deputy Paul Wolfowitz. Throughout these sections, emphasis is placed on the tactics employed by the American government to gradually shift the perception of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from a regional pariah to
an existential threat facing the United States. The analysis concludes with a brief summary of the paper followed by a broader reflection on how governments use misinformation to build narratives and shape foreign policy in the age of information.