Remarks for Global Engagement Center's Technology Series

Heather Nauert, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and State Department Spokesperson
U.S. Institute for Peace
Washington, DC
May 2, 2018

Thank you for that kind introduction, Adele, and a special thank you to the U.S. Institute of Peace for hosting us all this afternoon. It is a treat to be able to use this great facility alongside the National Mall. I would also like to acknowledge the staff of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) for organizing this event.

On behalf of the Department of State, I want to thank you all for being here today. We are fortunate to have participants from a broad array of backgrounds, including academics, researchers, technologists, and app developers. We know there is no silver bullet that will solve the problems of foreign propaganda and disinformation, but with the help of this diverse group, I am confident we will find new approaches in this effort.

Moreover, this event is a great example of how the U.S. government can work with private industry, and how the two can mutually benefit from that collaboration.

Foreign propaganda and disinformation clearly is not a new problem. However, the same technology that has put an ever-growing crowd-sourced encyclopedia in the hands of anyone with an internet connection, has also put a multimedia storyteller in almost everyone’s pocket. It is not always clear which messages may be sponsored by foreign governments or non-state actors.

In this charged atmosphere, information – or more frequently its weaponized counterpart, disinformation – is emerging as the secret weapon used by our adversaries to tip the scales. We are at a crucial moment, when we must define the problem and develop effective solutions, consistent with the rule of law and our democratic norms and values. And we need the folks in this room to help us in that endeavor.

Over the next six months, I encourage you to participate regularly in this GEC-organized series of technology demonstrations. Our goal is to show the U.S. interagency how specific technology can be applied to stem the spread of false narratives and to authenticate emerging information.

If you have not done so already, I urge you to speak with my GEC colleagues here today to schedule your own technology demonstration at an upcoming session.

I want to thank you again for taking the time to participate in today’s kickoff event. Effectively countering foreign propaganda and disinformation is important to our national security and protecting our democracy, and I sincerely appreciate your commitment to this effort.

With that, I am honored to close this inaugural session of the GEC Technology Series. Now I am pleased to invite you to an informal reception upstairs on the Solomon Roof Terrace.