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Belfer Center, IRI & NDI Launch European Cybersecurity Playbook

May 22, 2018

Brussels, Belgium—The Defending Digital Democracy project (D3P) at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center joined the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for the public launch of the “The Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook: European Edition” in Brussels on May 22, 2018.

The event featured a series of discussions including D3P Senior Fellows Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades, Google executives Heather Adkins and Scott Carpenter, European parliamentarians and policymakers, and officials from the Belfer Center, IRI and NDI.

Mook, manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Rhoades, manager of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, shared Playbook insights drawn from the attempted external interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

Sharing his personal experience with cybersecurity challenges throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Mook said, “Every campaign organization and official has to take responsibility for this problem. With this Playbook, we’re trying to make that easier for parties by providing straightforward guidance that can be adapted to many different contexts.”

Rhoades emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation on the cybersecurity challenges facing political campaigns and parties. “We may disagree on policies, but we can agree on the need to protect the foundations of our democracy from interference,” said Rhoades. “I’m proud to represent the Belfer Center, and to work with IRI and NDI to take proactive steps to protect free societies from this threat.” 

“The manipulation of information doesn’t have to happen everywhere to distort democracy—it just has to happen in a very targeted way,” said Scott Carpenter, IRI board member and Managing Director of Google Jigsaw. “We have a number of challenges in front of us, and we can only overcome them by working together across sectors and party lines.” 

"External meddling in electoral processes goes to the heart of a democratic system and transcends partisan politics,” said Ivan Doherty, Senior Associate and Director of the Political Party Programs at NDI. “Working across party lines and in collaboration with civil society and the tech sector on projects like the Playbook is an important way to raise awareness of these challenges."

The playbook provides accessible guidance to confront the threats posed by cyberattacks to the integrity of democratic systems and values.  In an effort to share best practices with European partners ahead of the 2019 EU elections, D3P, IRI and NDI joined forces to adapt the U.S. version of the Campaign Playbook for a European audience.

D3P, IRI and NDI also collaborated on an international edition of the “Election Cyber Incident Communications Plan Template.” This template enables political parties, campaigns, and other stakeholders to communicate quickly and effectively in the event of a cybersecurity incident.

Read more about the Defending Digital Democracy project here.