In a long-term perspective, foreign powers carry out influence operations on Sweden; however, the 2018 elections were not affected by any extensive influencing attempts. This assessment was made by the Swedish Security Service in a summary of its work to protect the elections and corresponds to the assessment made by the Service before 2018.
“Our work to protect the elections has given us a significantly better picture of how foreign powers carry out influence operations in Sweden, what tools they use for this and what their targets are,” says the Director General of the Swedish Security Service Klas Friberg.
According to the Security Service, influence attempts and information-gathering targeting political representatives were carried out during the 2018 election campaigns. In addition, state-backed IT incidents were carried out against political parties, their representatives, and government agencies of importance to the elections.
“The intelligence threat against Sweden and Swedish interests remains high. It is therefore important for all levels of society to have high security awareness, even after the elections,” says Klas Friberg.
No extensive influence operations were carried out against the Swedish elections and there are several possible reasons for this. One of these might be the great amount of attention that foreign powers’ interference in the elections of other countries has received. Also, the Security Service believe that their preventive work carried out together with the Swedish Police Authority, the Civil Contingencies Agency and the Election Authority has been instrumental in increasing awareness and vigilance in this regard. “Government agencies have continued this cooperation after the elections and we will be working to develop this cooperation even further,” says Klas Friberg.
The Service’s work to protect the elections was concentrated on ensuring that they could be held safely and securely and that government representatives and Members of Parliament would be able to carry out their election campaigns as planned. This involved protecting the elections from influence operations carried out by foreign powers, for instance by advising government agencies on how to prevent this from happening.
“We have no indications that foreign powers have affected key election systems,” says Linda Escar, who works in the Security Department of the Security Service.
Prior to the elections, the Security Service had information that attempts had been made to harm public confidence in the election process. Attempts to do so also occurred after the elections, for example through social media debates centring on electoral fraud.
“As a phenomenon, influence operations are neither new nor associated only with elections but are carried out more or less openly all the time,” says Linda Escar.
The Security Service's work in protecting the elections will continue until the new government is formed.