June 8, 2018 / 8:35 PM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-G7 to cooperate against malign interference in elections -draft

(Adds details, quotes from draft statement, background)

By Jan Strupczewski

LA MALBAIE, Quebec, June 8 (Reuters) - The Group of Seven leaders will agree on Friday to share information between themselves and work with internet service providers and social media companies to thwart foreign meddling in elections in their countries, a draft summit commitment said.

The draft, seen by Reuters, also says the G7 - the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, Italy, Germany and France - agreed to ensure high transparency of funding for political parties and all political advertising, especially during election campaigns.

The draft was a thinly veiled reference to allegations by the United States and the governments of some European Union countries that Russia interfered in their elections. Moscow has denied the allegations, which in the United States included a campaign of hacking political party networks and spreading disinformation through social media to help Donald Trump become president.

“Foreign actors seek to undermine our democratic societies and institutions, our electoral processes, our sovereignty and our security,” the G7 leaders said in the draft.

“These malicious, multi-faceted and ever-evolving tactics constitute a serious strategic threat which we commit to confront together, working with other governments that share our democratic values,” it said.

Russia was expelled from what was then called the G8 in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

In March, the United States imposed sanctions on Russian citizens and entities for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Research showed that Russian Twitter accounts pumped out messages in support of the opposition Labour party in an attempt to influence last year’s British election and the referendum in which Britons voted to leave the European Union.

Both France and Germany were wary of Russian meddling through social media and fake news in their elections in 2017.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of Sweden has said foreign powers were likely to try to interfere in elections there and that Sweden would strengthen its cyber security defences.

The G7 agreed to establish a G7 Rapid Response Mechanism to identify and respond to threats, “including through sharing information and analysis and identifying opportunities for coordinated response,” the draft commitment said.

They agreed to engage directly with internet service providers and social media platforms on malicious misuse of information technology by foreign actors.

The G7 would pay particular attention to improving transparency of use, prevention of illegal use of personal data and breaches of privacy. It would support public awareness and media literacy to identify intentionally misleading information.

Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool

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