In 2016, Russia’s information influence campaign against the U.S. presidential election alerted policymakers and security officials in Western democracies to a grave new threat. Targeted cyber intrusions and online disinformation amplified across social media could influence voter preferences, undermine political candidates, and damage trust in electoral processes. Ahead of recent elections in democracies ranging from Sweden to France to Germany to Mexico, officials have grappled with the challenge of strengthening trust in elections and countering disinformation of both foreign and – as the 2020 U.S. presidential election would demonstrate – domestic origin. At its core, disinformation represents an existential threat to democracy, as self-determination depends on a people’s ability to freely form opinions without manipulation.
The participants will discuss the issues surrounding disinformation and strategies for securing elections in an open society. This panel discussion comes after the release of two case studies produced by Innovations for Successful Societies in partnership with the Lichtenstein Institute for Self-Determination. Sweden Defends its Elections Against Disinformation, 2016-2018 and Defending the Vote: Estonia Creates a Network to Combat Disinformation, 2016-2020 detail how officials in these two countries addressed the threat of disinformation to their elections.
Senior Researcher, Swedish Defense Research Agency
Sebastian is a leading expert on disinformation, information influence, and countering malicious use of social media. As part of the Counter Influence Unit at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, he led the project to protect Sweden’s 2018 general election from disinformation and information influence operations. He was a Senior Expert at the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga. He began his career in the Swedish Armed Forces, where he worked on countering foreign influence operations. Now as a Senior Researcher at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, he studies foreign election interference, social media manipulation, and countering hybrid threats.
National Expert, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
Ingrid is an expert on strategic communications and elections at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, detailed from the Permanent Election Authority of Romania where she has served as Director of Communications and International Affairs. She has served in several election observation missions and lectures and conducts trainings on election security, international cooperation, and strategic communications. She previously served in the Romanian Intelligence Agency, both in the Open Source Center and the agency’s training academy.
Moderated by Jeff Fischer, Senior Electoral Advisor with Creative Associates International and Visiting Lecturer of Public and International Affairs at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He is an expert in electoral conflict prevention and electoral education, with a special focus on communities in transition.
Introductions by Jennifer Widner, Professor of Politics and International Affairs and Director of Innovations for Successful Societies at the the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.