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Foreign power interference in domestic elections is an existential threat to societies. Manifested through myriad methods from war to words, such interference is a timely example of strategic interaction between economic and political agents. We model this interaction between rational game players as a continuous-time differential game, constructing an analytical model of this competition with a variety of payoff structures. All-or-nothing attitudes by only one player regarding the outcome of the game lead to an arms race in which both countries spend increasing amounts on interference and counterinterference operations. We then confront our model with data pertaining to the Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election contest. We introduce and estimate a Bayesian structural time-series model of election polls and social media posts by Russian Twitter troll accounts. Our analytical model, while purposefully abstract and simple, adequately captures many temporal characteristics of the election and social media activity. We close with a discussion of our model's shortcomings and suggestions for future research.

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© 2020 American Physical Society.



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