Political warfare in the digital age: cyber subversion, information operations and deep fakes

Thomas Paterson, Lauren Hanley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The digital age has permanently changed the way states conduct political warfare-necessitating a rebalancing of security priorities in democracies. The utilisation of cyberspace by state and non-state actors to subvert democratic elections, encourage the proliferation of violence and challenge the sovereignty and values of democratic states is having a highly destabilising effect. Successful political warfare campaigns also cause voters to question the results of democratic elections and whether special interests or foreign powers have been the decisive factor in a given outcome. This is highly damaging for the political legitimacy of democracies, which depend upon voters being able to trust in electoral processes and outcomes free from malign influence-perceived or otherwise. The values of individual freedom and political expression practised within democratic states challenges their ability to respond to political warfare. The continued failure of governments to understand this has undermined their ability to combat this emerging threat. The challenges that this new digitally enabled political warfare poses to democracies is set to rise with developments in machine learning and the emergence of digital tools such as 'deep fakes'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)439-454
    JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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