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Sunday, October 21, 2018

 

Jazz Shaw: "How do we define who’s “meddling” in elections?"

This is a question we’ve addressed here before, but recent events make it more applicable than ever. A 44-year-old Russian woman named Elena Khusyaynova has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. ...

Okay. That all sounds good so far. But what did she actually do? Saying that she attempted to “sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions” is still a bit on the vague side. ...

Her responsibilities included:


  • Paying expenditures for activists
  • Purchasing advertisements on social media platforms
  • Registration of domain names
  • Purchasing proxy servers
  • Promoting news postings on social networks

So they were attempting to blend in with American political activists and basically fire up the crowd, probably creating or promoting fake news. But there’s no mention of making campaign contributions (which is illegal for foreigners to do), tampering with voting machines or anything else that would qualify for a violation of most of the laws we usually associate with campaign rules. She’s pretty much doing all the same things American political activists do on a daily basis, aside from not being a citizen of the United States... The closest the Justice Department comes to specifying anything which sounds like criminal conduct is to say that she attempted to, “defraud the United States by impeding the lawful functions of government agencies in administering relevant federal requirements.” I’m not even sure what that means.

But:

But don’t people do these things all the time if they are interested in political activism? And I don’t just mean Americans or in this case the sneaky Russians. Just this morning, during the six o’clock hour, CNN did a glowing review of a singer and actor named Troye Sivan. It turns out that Troye is a big favorite of Taylor Swift and some other famous people I don’t follow on Twitter. And he’s out there joining in with Taylor to push people to register to vote and, quite specifically to #RESIST Trump and support some Democrats. He’s been quite clear which side he’s on, describing his reaction to the GOP victories in the 2016 elections by saying, “I’ve been pretty heartbroken about the whole thing and I don’t even live here.”

It’s the “I don’t even live here” part you should pay attention to. Sivan is a native of South Africa and a citizen of Australia. He lives in Los Angeles now, but he’s not a citizen. So by taking this message forward, not only on television but to his considerable army of social media followers, isn’t Troye Sivan “meddling in our election” too? Or doesn’t it count if you’re supporting the Democrats? And let’s be clear, I could run down a sizable list of non-citizen celebrities who are doing the same.

and what about Americans who blog or post about foreign leaders?

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