Foreign Policy Priorities:
Cybersecurity and Digital Policy
Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election revealed in stark terms the vulnerability of American democracy to foreign adversaries. Yet many experts warn that Washington has not done enough in the time since to safeguard the country’s electoral systems or stem the spread of disinformation on social media platforms.
The United States has sought to punish some bad actors with sanctions and criminal penalties. U.S. Cyber Command has launched attacks to disrupt Russian hackers, and Congress has funded efforts to strengthen cybersecurity. Yet many analysts believe that more needs to be done, and that President Donald J. Trump has undermined these efforts by denying or downplaying Russia’s involvement.
Meanwhile, the role of large technology firms, both domestic and foreign, has increasingly come into question. Companies such as Facebook and Twitter have faced harsh criticism for their roles in propagating disinformation and extremist content, while their efforts to crack down on offenders have raised free speech concerns. These tech giants and others, such as Google and Amazon, are also under increasing scrutiny for their extraordinary market power and potentially anticompetitive business practices.
There is also growing concern over the national security risks posed by foreign technology companies, which experts say may put sensitive communications infrastructure under the influence of adversaries. The arrival of new technologies such as 5G wireless networks is making the question of who controls that critical infrastructure more important than ever. Dating back to the Barack Obama administration, policymakers have sought to restrict the ability of firms such as Huawei, the Chinese communications giant, to operate in the United States. Trump has stepped up these efforts at home and has tried to convince allies that Chinese companies pose a risk; Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he will strengthen the nation’s cyber infrastructure. At the same time, many experts argue that the United States must invest much more in research and development to keep pace with China.