Activating People Power to Counter Foreign Interference and Coercion

Author name: 
Katherine Mansted

Key points

  • Citizens are increasingly frontline actors in Australia’s security challenges: as targets of malign interference and coercion, victims of collateral damage, and agents of national resilience.
  • Advances in information and communications technologies have made Australian society unprecedentedly porous and provided adversaries with potent tools for interference and coercion.
  • Counter interference and coercion measures will affect citizens’ interests as consumers, business owners and internet users. To ensure law and policy is appropriately calibrated, and accepted by the public as necessary and legitimate, citizens must be included in national security policy debate.
  • Intelligence-sharing and public attribution can deter adversaries from malign activities target-ing the social realm by piercing the veil of ‘plausible deniability’ that makes these tactics appealing.

Policy recommendations

  • Agencies should boost national security literacy via a more proactive dialogue with informa-tion gatekeepers in the media, academia and civil society.
  • Agencies should spread awareness of the political warfare ‘playbooks’ of foreign states to enhance the public’s ability to identify and expose malign activities, and to inoculate citizens to their effects.
  • Working with like-minded international partners, the Government should develop a publicly available, principles-based framework for attributing malign activities to foreign states.
Publication file: 
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Updated:  29 January 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of College, National Security College/Page Contact:  Web administrator