Election interference is much more prevalent and sinister than most of us realise – even in what we might consider a ‘safe’ corner of the planet.

在从事了一辈子的情报工作之后, 调查和打击技术犯罪, 前联邦调查局特工 丹尼斯·德斯蒙德博士 is now a lecturer at 美高梅mgm1888官方网站’s School of Science, Technology and Engineering.

It’s given him a front row seat to what is unfolding before Saturday’s Australian federal election.

“The breadth and depth election interference plunges to is immense,Desmond博士说.

“Australia’s enemies are willing to do whatever it takes, 尤其是在俄乌冲突期间, 中国对南太平洋的影响力, 以及正在进行的贸易和商品战.

“In previous years there has been the perception that foreign enemies interfered in elections to install one party or leader in favour of another one.

“But the truth is that these forces try to manipulate all parties, 向对立党派捐款, and gather a level of intelligence about individuals that is frankly alarming.”

Dr Desmond says the main objective of malevolent forces is to create three things – fear, 不确定性和怀疑.

它可以像创建文章一样简单, websites or conflicting media that cause 混乱 about when to vote, 如何投票, 或者去哪里投票.

然而, it can also be about testing people’s reactions to hot topics; things a foreign enemy may be interested in.

“They will try and draw out responses from people on strategic issues, 不管他们的目标是政客, 有影响力的人物或选民,Desmond博士说.

“They might confect or put the spotlight on certain situations to know exactly where somebody stands about control of the South China Sea, 台湾独立, or attitude towards having American forces stationed in Australia.

“Or it might be attempting to cause maximum division through polarising issues like mask mandates, 疫苗, 税, 财富, 最少的工资, 种族等等. These are all potential wedges for foreign adversaries to cause distrust, 混乱, 民众的不团结和不稳定.

“A lot of people see mainstream media as the cause of misinformation at the moment, but the really harmful stuff is coming from articles with unidentified sources, 没有来源, 未经检查的事实, 或者来自个人媒介.

“例如, people might be more inclined to trust something considered more intimate like Reddit, but right now there are forums established on that platform designed specifically to cause disruption and undermine the USA’s influence in Australia.”

Are some people more at risk from online manipulation than others?

Being unable to differentiate the motives or the sources of information providers means some people will trust (or distrust) all published media equally.

That means the same truth value is afforded to a hoax post or an extremist group as is afforded to an objective article sourced from multiple perspectives and independently fact-checked.

Online interference can also, quite worryingly, be aimed at specific demographics.

 “美高梅mgm1888官方网站都需要小心网络攻击, 不明邮件和欺诈性短信, 但有些人比其他人更容易受到攻击,Desmond博士说.

“中国学生, 例如, 是否受到强制攻击的轰炸, phishing scams and a mix of both criminal and state-sponsored assaults.

“The forces at play are very interested in who might be of Chinese descent, 谁可能在中国有家人或熟人, 香港及台湾, who is involved in technology or defence – and what their attitudes are on certain things.

“Acquisition of identity data makes it easier to target people of economic and political influence.

“One of the interesting and telling factors about this type of identity data is that you don’t see it come up for sale on the dark web. 这说明了它的价值, and how little they want other people to have the same information.”

Dr Desmond admits to “having a few soapboxes” and one of the issues he is intensely passionate about is educating children pre-emptively about recognising misinformation, 欺诈和操纵.

He is also passionate about ensuring equitable access to technology across Australian regions.

In the same way that being unable to read or write held back children of past generations, 造成了贫穷循环和歧视, Dr Desmond perceives potential for Australia to be divided between those who can access technology and identify common trickery, 还有那些更容易感染的人.

“One of the things I’ve discovered since becoming involved in academia is that there needs to be greater training at high school level and younger ages to encourage critical thinking,Desmond博士说.

“The amount of information a child is bombarded with now, 与50年前相比, 完全不同.

“Processing and discerning everything that is thrown at them is a huge and constant task.

“We need to help children understand the information flow and the forces at play, we need to encourage taking everything with a grain of salt, 美高梅mgm1888官方网站需要父母的监督和讨论, 但没有禁止或限制一切.


With that in mind, here's four tips to help you stay safe online

如果您收到警告邮件, text message or phone call from a government agency such as the tax office don't panic - terminate contact and verify it separately. You can contact the organisation independently to fact-check what you've been told.

Don't trust everything you see on social media - corroborate it with multiple other sources, 包括主流媒体机构.

Who has something to gain from spreading this information or disinformation? 谁写的?? 是谁出版的? 是付费内容吗?? Was it written for a domestic audience or a foreign one? Critically analyse it, including whether your own biases are influencing your opinion.