Web Giants and Political Interference: Minister Gould Disappointed

Canadian Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould laments the lack of collaboration that giants like Facebook have in the fight against foreign political interference.

“I do not trust that they take this issue very seriously. They think they are doing the necessary work, but they are not transparent enough with the [Canadian] government, “she said at a press conference in Ottawa on Monday.

“I’m not exactly happy with the conversations we’ve had so far,” said Minister Gould on the sidelines of a report from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) on the threat of terrorism. Foreign interference.

And Facebook’s big boss, Mark Zuckerberg, who recently invited countries to come together to deliver a transnational regulatory framework, the Minister of Democratic Institutions of Canada says it’s not up to the giants of the web to dictate their laws .

There could be “similarities” between democratic countries, but “I believe that digital platforms will have to accept that different countries will have their own laws,” she said.

Ottawa studied “very carefully” to legislate, added Gould.

But here we are, with eight weeks left on the calendar of parliamentary business, that will not be clear before the next election next October.

In the absence of concrete legislation during the election campaign, the minister concedes that we are essentially relying on the vigilance of Canadians.

“We have seen all over the world that the most direct, the most important targets for foreign interference are the citizens. Because it is the citizens have the power. They decide who will govern them and their country, “she said.

The threat still hangs

The CSE reiterated Monday in its report that the threat of foreign interference still hung over the electoral process. There is a risk for Canadians to taste the same medicine that was used by the British, the French and the Germans, among others.

“The proportion of cyber-targeted elections has more than tripled in advanced democracies whose economies are similar to Canada’s, like the member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),” he said. in the document that is about thirty pages long.

If the spy agency specifically shows – and exclusively – the finger of Russia, it points out despite all that “it is unlikely that the extent of this foreign online interference rivals that of the activities carried out by Russia against the elections 2016 presidential elections in the United States ยป.

This is because Canada “is not playing the same role on the international stage,” CSE officials told a technical briefing on Monday morning.

The Canadian system is also less vulnerable than others, since the federal election is mainly conducted on paper.

We do not detail the tactics of malicious actors in the document to avoid that it serves as a practical guide for their followers, said in a press conference the great boss of the spy agency, Shelly Bruce.

Although CSE officials acknowledge a “rise” in the phenomenon, they maintain the level of assessment of the risk of interference as “very likely”, which is the same as in a previous report published in 2017.

Examples of interference in Canada

In Canada, political leaders and the Canadian public have been the target of foreign interference in recent years, notes the CSE in this report.

“Since the 2015 federal election, more than one foreign opponent has manipulated social media using cyber tools to spread false or misleading information about Canada on Twitter, most likely to create a rift between Canadians or undermine the goals of the Canadian government. Canada’s foreign policy, “it says.

As for the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA), it “continues to create illegitimate websites to display false and misleading information that it passes for personal blogs or independent electronic journalism,” says the agency.

“A campaign in September 2017 attempted to provoke the same political dissensions in Canada that affect the National Football League of the United States by promoting titles of articles such as” The Canadian Football League protests against HIS OWN national anthem “[…]”, the report says.

The federal agency only names countries other than Russia from where the online attacks could be launched, but mentions Russia more than once.

A few days ago, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland – whose relations with Moscow are cold – reiterated that it was likely that the Russians would disrupt the federal electoral process next October.

Ottawa recently established a Security Threat Task Force, comprised of representatives from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Global Affairs Canada, and the CSE.

Its mandate is to help the Canadian government assess and counter foreign threats for the 2019 elections.