Campaigns of Disinformation: Modern Warfare, Electoral Interference, and Canada’s Security Environment

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This capstone develops a risk assessment of Canada’s democratic institutions as it relates to potential foreign interference in the 2019 federal election, determining what factors should be of most concern for Canadian policymakers charged with defending Canada’s democratic infrastructure from foreign interference. Through a literature review of non-linear warfare, social media networks and algorithms, I discuss the technological and behavioural factors that have contributed to the vulnerabilities in Western states, namely the advent of a changing media and information environment. I argue that changes in technological and information accessibility have allowed states who have been traditionally disadvantaged in terms of warfare capabilities to overcome these asymmetries. I go on to explore cases of recent interferences in domestic by Russia and China, providing a comprehensive overview of each state’s motivations for engaging in non-linear warfare: historical grievances against the Liberal International Order, changing tactics in modern warfare, and interference strategies in foreign elections. Following these case studies, I then assess why Canada is viewed as a target from the perspectives of both Russia and China, and the different motivations of these states in intervening in Canada. Following an assessment of Canada’s security environment as it relates to election interference, I evaluate the safeguards Canada has put in place to defend against attacks to its democratic institutions. I devise a risk matrix that codifies the threats Canada will likely face during the pre-election and election period leading up to the 2019 federal election. This capstone concludes with a recommendation that urges Canada to institute a National Centre for Strategic Communications and Digital Democracy that would develop cohesive strategies to safeguard democracy in Canada against foreign influence campaigns, cyber-attacks, and disinformation.
Tuttle, D. (2019). Campaigns of Disinformation: Modern Warfare, Electoral Interference, and Canada’s Security Environment (Unpublished master's project). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.