A new research centre launched at Flinders University will tackle foreign meddling in democratic elections as well as the proliferation of fake news and threats to national security through the ‘weaponisation of social media’.
According to a recent press release, the Jeff Bleich Centre for the US Alliance in Digital Technology, Security, and Governance will be the first research centre in Australia to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to social science by bringing together the three key areas of technology, security, governance.
Based in the University’s College of Business, Government and Law, it will undertake research in areas of mutual concern to Australia and the United States.
The aim is to improve the capacity of governments and industry to respond to these cyber challenges and threats.
These cyber challenges and threats are digital media manipulation in fostering divisions in civil society, challenging national security and contesting democratic governance.
The launch of the Centre coincided with the release of the latest Lowy Institute Annual Poll, which ranked cyber security as the most significant threat to Australia’s vital interests after climate change.
About the Centre
The Centre is named in honour of Ambassador Jeff Bleich, Special Counsel to President Barack Obama and a diplomat who served as Ambassador to Australia from 2009 to 2013.
The Ambassador is an Honorary Professor and long-time friend of the University.
The Centre will create opportunities for industry, particularly defence, government and NGOs to work with the University to address current and emerging issues in cybersecurity.
It will consolidate the University’s research expertise and strengths in digital technologies, security and governance.
Furthermore, it will build upon its existing strengths in US policy studies and the university’s strong US alliance.
The Centre aligns with the South Australian and Federal Governments’ cyber security plans and will further strengthen South Australia’s position as Australia’s Defence State.
It will undertake research to identify reforms, including regulatory models, which preserve the gains of the digital revolution.
Moreover, it will enhance the protection of democratic freedoms, and restore trust in the institutions of democratic societies.
The digital revolution has initiated societal change on a scale comparable to the invention of the printing press and the arrival of the industrial revolution.
Although cyber revolution offers incalculable benefit, there have also been high costs.
The disruptive costs of the digital revolution on democracy have been high, largely unanticipated and only recently addressed as some have escalated into crises.
According to the Ambassador, these have included deliberate efforts to impair individual, corporate and government decision-making through corrupt, distorted, or false information campaigns.
The advent of digital technology has fundamentally changed the way people work, eat, shop, and live. But it has also changed the societies and how people defend themselves.
The mission of the Centre is that both nations, either separately or together, should operate in new ways to preserve the values and protect the people and allies in new battle spaces.
A five-member Advisory Board will be appointed to provide strategic guidance and direction for the Centre.