Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act
Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act

Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act is a bipartisan bill that was introduced by the United States Congress on 10 May 2016. The bill was initially called the Countering Information Warfare Act.

The bipartisan legislation was written in March 2016 by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R, OH) and Chris Murphy (D, CT). It was additionally introduced in the United States House of Representatives in a bipartisan fashion; co-sponsors included Congressmen Adam Kinzinger (R, IL) and Ted Lieu (D, CA).

In both the House and Senate the bill was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017. It passed the House in this fashion in a conference report vote on 2 December 2016. The Senate then passed the measure in a conference report on December 8 by a tally of 92–7.

On 23 December 2016, President Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act into law.[1]

History

Video of U.S. Senators Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Chris Murphy speaking about the bipartisan bill

The bipartisan bill was written in March 2016 by U.S. Senators Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Chris Murphy.[2] It was introduced by Senator Portman under its initial name Countering Information Warfare Act, on 16 March 2016 as S.2692.[3] It was introduced as the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act in the United States House of Representatives on 10 May 2016 as H.R.5181, co-sponsored by Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger along with Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu.[4][5] The bill was introduced as the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act in the United States Senate on 14 July 2016 sponsored by Senator Rob Portman as S.3274.[6]

The Washington Post and the International Business Times reported that after the 2016 United States presidential election, worries grew that propaganda spread and organized by the Russian government swayed the outcome of the election, and representatives in the United States Congress took action to safeguard the National security of the United States by advancing legislation to monitor incoming propaganda from external threats.[2][7] On November 30, 2016, legislators approved a measure within the National Defense Authorization Act to ask the U.S. State Department to take action against foreign propaganda through an interagency panel.[2][7] The legislation authorized funding of $160 million over a two-year-period.[2][8] Portman urged more U.S. government action to counter disinformation and propaganda.[2] Murphy said that after the election it was apparent the U.S. needed additional tactics to fight Russian disinformation.[2] Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Washington Post: "There is definitely bipartisan concern about the Russian government engaging in covert influence activities of this nature."[2]

The bill advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives on 2 December 2016, when the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 conference report to S. 2943 passed in that chamber, including the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act.[5]

In a speech to lawmakers on 8 December 2016, Hillary Clinton called attention to the issue, saying pending legislation before the U.S. Congress would "boost the government's response to foreign propaganda."[9] She called on trendsetters in society to work together on the problem: "It's imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy, and innocent lives."[9]

On 8 December 2016, the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act passed a vote in the U.S. Senate by a wide margin.[10] It was included together with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report for fiscal year 2017, which passed in the U.S. Senate with a final tally of 92 to 7.[10]

In the version of the bill incorporated into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. Congress would ask the United States Secretary of State to collaborate with the United States Secretary of Defense and other relevant Federal agencies to create a "Global Engagement Center" (GEC) to fight against propaganda from foreign governments, and publicize the nature of ongoing foreign propaganda and disinformation operations against the United States and other countries.[11] The bill said this inter-agency effort should: "counter foreign propaganda and disinformation directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests."[8]

Supporters of the resolution inside the Defense Department have publicly expressed their desire to weaken the interpretation of domestic propaganda protections, laws which prevent the United States Department of State from gathering information necessary to develop targeted propaganda messaging and prevent them from explicitly attempting to influence opinions.[8]

According to reporting by The New York Times in March 2018, the State Department had not yet begun to spend the $120 million allocated to it, and not one of the 23 analysts working in the GEC could speak Russian.[12] In 2020, the GEC issued its first report, describing what it called "Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem."[13][14] The GEC published another report on Kremlin-funded disinformation in January 2022.[15]

See also

References

  1. ^ "S.2943 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017", Congress.gov, Library of Congress, 23 December 2016, retrieved December 29, 2016
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Timberg, Craig (30 November 2016), "Effort to combat foreign propaganda advances in Congress", The Washington Post, retrieved 1 December 2016
  3. ^ Portman, Rob (16 March 2016), "S.2692 - Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016", Congress.gov, United States Congress, retrieved December 9, 2016
  4. ^ Kinzinger, Adam (May 10, 2016), "H.R.5181 - Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016", Congress.gov, United States Congress, retrieved December 9, 2016
  5. ^ a b Lieu, Ted (December 2, 2016), "Congressman Lieu Statement on House Passage of the 2017 NDAA", Lieu.house.gov, retrieved December 10, 2016
  6. ^ Portman, Rob (14 July 2016), "S.3274 - Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act", Congress.gov, United States Congress, retrieved December 9, 2016
  7. ^ a b Porter, Tom (1 December 2016), "US House of representatives backs proposal to counter global Russian subversion", International Business Times UK edition, retrieved 1 December 2016
  8. ^ a b c Tucker, Patrick (December 5, 2016), "The US Is Losing at Influence Warfare. Here's Why", Defense One, retrieved December 10, 2016
  9. ^ a b Robertso n, Adi (December 8, 2016), "Hillary Clinton says 'lives are at risk' because of fake news", The Verge, retrieved December 10, 2016
  10. ^ a b "Murphy supports act to fund military hardware purchases", Stratford Star, December 8, 2016, retrieved December 9, 2016
  11. ^ McCain, John (December 8, 2016), "SEC. 1259C. Global Engagement Center.", S.2943 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, United States Congress, retrieved December 10, 2016
  12. ^ "State Dept. Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0". New York Times. March 4, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2022. the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy. As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts.
  13. ^ Barnes, Julian E. (August 5, 2020). "State Dept. Traces Russian Disinformation Links". New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2022. Russia continues to use a network of proxy websites to spread pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda in the United States and other parts of the West, according to a State Department report released on Wednesday. The report is one of the most detailed explanations yet from the Trump administration on how Russia disseminates disinformation, but it largely avoids discussing how Moscow is trying to influence the current campaign.
  14. ^ "GEC Special Report: August 2020: Pillars of Russia's Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem" (PDF). United States Department of State. 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2022. ...this report draws on publicly available reporting to provide an overview of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem is the collection of official, proxy, and unattributed communication channels and platforms that Russia uses to create and amplify false narratives.
  15. ^ "Kremlin-Funded Media: RT and Sputnik's Role in Russia's Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem" (PDF). United States Department of State. 2022. Retrieved February 23, 2022. A proxy site is an unofficial mouthpiece promoting disinformation and propaganda. In the context of Russian disinformation and propaganda, some proxy sites have direct links to the Russian state, some are enmeshed in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem, and others are more loosely connected via the narratives they promote

Further reading