The continuation of policy by other means: asymmetric warfare via the ballot box

Thursday, May 4, 2017
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Encina Hall, 2nd floor

About the event: In his talk Toomas Hendrik Ilves will discuss how various digital tools have been used in democracies in Europe and the US in an attempt to disrupt and affect elections outcomes. These are new approaches, meant if not to alter electoral outcomes then at least to sow discord and seem in some instances to have been successful. Methods used include hacking into political parties' servers and “doxxing” embarrassing hacked materials; disseminating via “bots” false stories that have occasionally gone viral; as well highly granular big data analyses to target voters with ads specifically tailored to their profiles as culled from social media.

These methods and tactics have been employed in the U.S, French, and Dutch elections; cyber-break-ins into the Bundestag and German political think tanks suggest they will play a role in the upcoming German parliamentary elections. Perpetrated by an authoritarian government, they are asymmetric: without a free media environment they are immune to such tacts even if democracies were to even try to respond in kind. What democracies have experienced in the past several years will force them to adapt to a new environment with the realization that there are many ways for an adversary to change a nations policies.

About the Speaker: Toomas Hendrik Ilves was born on December 26, 1953, to an Estonian family living in Stockholm, Sweden. He was educated in the United States, receiving a degree from Columbia University in 1976 and a master's degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978.

In 1984 he moved to Munich, Germany, to work at the office of Radio Free Europe, first as a researcher and foreign policy analyst and later as the head of the Estonian Desk.

From 1993 to 1996 Ilves served in Washington as the ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States and Canada. During this time, he launched the Tiger Leap Initiative to computerize and connect all Estonian schools online with Education Minister Jaak Aaviksoo. He then served as minister of foreign affairs from 1996 to 1998. After a brief period as chairman of the North Atlantic Institute in 1998, he was again appointed minister of foreign affairs, serving until 2002.

From 2002 to 2004, Ilves was a member of the Estonian Parliament and in 2004 he was elected a member of the European Parliament, where he was vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Committee. As a MEP, he initiated the Baltic Sea Strategy that was later implemented as official regional policy of the European Union.

Ilves was elected president of the Republic of Estonia in 2006. He was re-elected for a second term in office in 2011.

During his presidency, Ilves has been appointed to serve in several high positions in the field of ICT in the European Union. He served as chairman of the EU Task Force on eHealth from 2011 to 2012 and was chairman of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board at the invitation of the European Commission from 2012 to 2014. In 2013 he chaired the High-Level Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms convened by ICANN. From 2014 to 2015 Ilves was the co-chair of the advisory panel of the World Bank's World Development Report 2016 "Digital Dividends" and was also the chair of World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Cyber Security beginning in June 2014.

Starting from 2016, Ilves co-chairs The World Economic Forum working group The Global Futures Council on Blockchain Technology. In 2017 he joined Stanford University as a Bernard and Susan Liautaud Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

President Ilves has published many essays and articles in Estonian and English on numerous topics ranging from Estonian language, history, and literature to global foreign and security policy and cyber security. His books include essay collections in Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Hungarian, and Russian.

His international awards and honorary degrees include Knight of Freedom Award by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation (2016), the Aspen Prague Award by the Aspen Institute (2015), the Freedom Award by the Atlantic Council (2014) and the NDI Democracy Award by the National Democratic Institute (2013). His Honorary Degrees include an Honorary Degree from St. Olaf College, US (2014), an Honorary Degree from the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland (2010), and an Honorary Degree from Tbilisi University, Georgia (2007).