Russia is engaged in a determined assault on Western democracies and their institutions. At its core, this is an attack on public trust and confidence. While policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have made important strides to combat Russian disinformation operations as they pertain to election security, little has been done to acknowledge and adequately address the threats against justice systems.
Traditionally a democracy’s judiciary is among the most trusted institution in the government. Because of this, it might seem like an unlikely target for disinformation campaigns by a foreign power. However, the judiciary is also, like elections, entirely dependent upon public acceptance of the legitimacy of its outcomes. The idea of a system built on the rule of law and justice delivered by a fair and impartial judiciary is a critical pillar of democracy and one of its greatest strengths. Erode the public’s belief in that idea, and the pillar begins to crumble.
Institutions must continue to work to live up to our ideals. But proactive steps must also be taken to safeguard justice systems in democracies like the United States and elsewhere. These systems must be actively protected from outside interference designed to undermine them. Perhaps more importantly, targeted countries need to ensure that their institutions and public are resilient in the face of adversary information operations that threaten to erode trust in democratic institutions.
The adversary most actively using disinformation to weaken democracies today is Russia. To better appreciate the threat landscape and the policies that might be considered to protect justice systems, we need to first understand how exactly Moscow uses disinformation to undermine these institutions.