Skip to main content
Past Policy 2020 Event

Disinformed democracy: The past, present, and future of information warfare

Past Event

In 2016, Russian operatives waged an information war, including cyberattacks and inauthentic social media campaigns, designed to stoke political divisions and undermine the U.S. presidential election. Before they became front-page news, Russian influence operations had existed for decades. But in recent years, a range of domestic and international factors — in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere — have spotlighted the dangers of information manipulation campaigns, which now threaten the 2020 election. These drivers, alongside a rapidly evolving information technology and communications landscape, necessitate innovative policy ideas and a whole-of-society approach to protect democratic societies.

On October 2, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted a virtual conference to examine the past, present, and future of disinformation and efforts to combat it. Following welcoming remarks by Brookings President John R. Allen, Brookings Senior Fellow Fiona Hill and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster framed the event with a conversation on McMaster’s new book, “Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World.” Then, Hill and Brookings Fellow and Deputy Director of the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative Chris Meserole moderated three panel discussions on the history of Russian influence operations leading up to 2016, the domestic factors that contribute to disinformation and other threats to democracy, and novel strategies for combatting information warfare in the future.

Viewers submitted questions via email to or via Twitter at #Policy2020.

Policy 2020 events aim to empower voters with fact-based, data-driven, non-partisan information so they can better understand the policy matters discussed in the 2020 election.


Welcoming remarks

Opening conversation: How disinformation threatens world order


H.R. McMaster

Former U.S. National Security Advisor

Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow - Hoover Institution, Stanford University

From this Session

Panel 1: The road to Russian interference in 2016


Thomas Rid

Professor of Strategic Studies - Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

From this Session

Panel 2: Domestic drivers of disinformation

From this Session

Panel 3: Novel strategies for countering information warfare


Eileen Donahoe

Executive Director - Global Digital Policy Incubator, Stanford University

Former U.S. Ambassador - United Nations Human Rights Council


Daniel Kimmage

Principal Deputy Coordinator, Global Engagement Center - U.S. Department of State

From this Session

More Information

To subscribe or manage your subscriptions to our top event topic lists, please visit our event topics page.


Get a weekly events calendar from Brookings