This paper focuses on Canada’s efforts to confront the challenge of foreign election interference. It makes two interrelated claims. First, it argues for a multi-faceted approach that employs a suite of complementary tactics including (1) direct measures to target foreign interference specifically; (2) indirect measures to counter disinformation and fake news; and (3) coordinated cross-government strategy for cyber threats and security. It outlines and evaluates Canada’s efforts to inoculate the electoral process from foreign interference. Second, the paper argues that despite the limitations of these measures, the combined and interactive effects of a multi-faceted approach provide helpful protections against some of the harms of foreign interference while also signaling the importance of electoral integrity thereby shoring up the public trust that is indispensable to sustaining a democratic order.
Both the UK and US experienced foreign meddling through social media disinformation campaigns sponsored by foreign powers in 2016. The American backlash against this meddling yielded the greatest challenge to executive power in decades. The response in the UK – a committee report that Boris Johnson's Downing Street has procedurally suppressed – has been far more muted. This apparently poses an ominous paradox for UK governance: the UK has fewer formal mechanisms (a written constitution, robust judicial review) for checking a perhaps-tainted democratic will. Yet a closer look reveals a more subtle parallel: in the UK leadership selection mechanisms insulate actual state power from the electorate far more than in the US. The UK reaction may reflect particular political realities; a more general lesson is that foreign meddling must be considered in its broader constitutional and political context.
The US Supreme Court has taken a restrictive view of the state interests sufficient to warrant regulation of campaign expenditures. The only interest justifying such restrictions, it has held, is the preventing quid pro quo corruption. The idea undergirding this is skepticism that electoral activities influencing the behavior of voters, rather than candidates, can “corrupt” elections. This sits uneasily with US law banning foreigners from financing election expenditures. Foreign-funded expenditures, like all expenditures, function by influencing voters, not candidates. So far, the Court nonetheless has upheld these bans, using an under-theorized political community rationale, but the bans seem unlikely to survive a more robust judicial interrogation. Drawing on case law involving restrictions on the political activity of federal employees, this paper argues that foreign expenditure bans are better supported by the “anti-shakedown” rationale used in those cases.
The law against the manipulation of information, adopted in France in November 2018, targets the dissemination of fake news by means of digital tools during national election campaigns. It was initiated by President Emmanuel Macron who was the victim of false information, in particular by Russian media RT and Sputnik, when running for the presidential election in 2016. This paper will analyse the new powers given by the law to the French independent authority of TV media and radio regulation, the Audio-visual Superior Council, to fight against any attempted destabilization or disinformation campaign by a media television service controlled or influenced by a foreign state during a national electoral period.