A practical approach on how to cope with disinformation

In less than two years, “post-truth”, “fake-news” and “troll factories” have become words that represent one of the political narratives of our time. On 19 September, the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU brought together experts to discuss ways to tackle disinformation.

  • Leena Brandt, Jennifer Rankin, Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck

    The Bryssels based journalists Jennifer Rankin and Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck reflected on the development of disinformation from a journalist's point of view. Speakers from East StratCom Taskforce, the Swedish Media Council and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency then presented their work and findings Leena Brandt, Press Counsellor for the EU-representation of Finland to Sweden, was the moderator of the seminar.

    Foto: EU-representationen

  • Ida Eklund Lindvall

    - False information about migration, blame on NGO:s and funding from the Soros Foundation as a root cause of problems are common narratives used in pro-Kremlin disinformation. While funding for media in the west has scaled down, pro-Kremlin media is doing the opposite, said Ida Eklund-Lindwall, Expert on disinformation analysis, East StratCom Taskforce.”

    Photo: The Representation of Sweden to the EU

  • Mikael Tofvesson

    - We focus on information influence campaigns from two sources, the ISIL or Daesh and the pro-Kremlin disinformation. Preparing for the election next year we look at how other elections have been targeted and map our own vulnerabilities. We have also trained almost 6,000 civil servants in recognizing disinformation, said Mikael Tofvesson, Head of Section for global monitoring and analysis, Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.

    Photo: The EU-representation of Sweden to the EU

  • Ewa Thorslund

    - Among many other things we see a new digital divide, namely that of a gap in media literacy and increasing fragmentation causing an absence of common frames, said Ewa Thorslund, Director of the Swedish Media Council. Ewa Thorslund also introduced the free on-line material in English for schools to use.

    Photo: The Representation of Sweden to the EU

Two Brussels-based journalists, the Guardian's Jennifer Rankin and Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck of Lie Detectors, kicked off the seminar reflecting on why disinformation has become so successful and the many ways in which this development has an impact on journalism and journalists today.

Ida Eklund Lindwall, expert on disinformation analysis, spoke about the work of the EastStratCom Taskforce. She presented findings on disinformation trends and methods as well as typical content and topics of disinformation campaigns.

The following part of the seminar focused on awareness raising activities based on two Swedish examples, namely the work of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and the Swedish Media Council.

Information influence campaigns presenting challenges or threats to public elections are an increasing cause for concern:

"In many countries attempts to influence public elections have been confirmed. These are efforts by other countries to influence government, the public or groups to benefit their own interests. They can consist of spreading false documents, creating fictional individuals in social media or planting news and threats [...] There are no guarantees that future Swedish elections will be protected. On the contrary, we see already today examples of influence on our security policy, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, wrote in an opinion piece, in Dagens Nyheter, 20 March, 2017.

The Government has tasked The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency to raise awareness among relevant actors in Sweden to protect the general election in September 2018 from foreign influence activities. Mikael Tofvesson, head of Section for global monitoring and analysis, spoke about the agency's work to detect threats and vulnerabilities.

Ewa Thorslund, director of the Swedish Media Council, presented the council's resources to help young people become better critical thinkers and improve their ability to detect disinformation. Some of the teaching material is translated into English.

Press counsellor of the Representation of Finland to the EU, Leena Brandt, moderated the seminar.

The seminar was part of the Freedom of Speech and Transparency programme for 2017 of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and supported the digital agenda of the EU Presidency of Estonia, July-December, 2017.

Links:

Webbstream on Facebooklive

East StratCom Taskforce

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency

The Swedish Media Council

Opinion piece by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven