A Letter to EUvsDisinfo Readers
One of the most frequently repeated lines in various panels, roundtables and discussions on disinformation is: ”We shouldn’t accept disinformation as the new normal”.
We believe that acknowledging the reality surrounding us is the best way to build our response to disinformation. EUvsDisinfo has now been raising awareness about pro-Kremlin disinformation for six years. We have seen how awareness of the Russian state’s actions in manipulating the information space domestically and abroad has gradually grown in the EU.
“Taking the longer view requires recognising that subversion is a process rather than an event, and considering long-term trends, for example, what is normal in the information space in English-speaking countries in 2020 compared to 2015. This comparison reveals spectacular change in an astonishingly short time. Assisted by the policies and algorithms of social media platforms, Russia has ridden and accelerated trends of fragmentation, distrust, and the spawning of alternative realities – and is now joined by a wide range of foreign and domestic imitators who choose to emulate Russian tactics for their own political ends, amplifying the damage done.”
Several days ago Ukrainian journalist Alyona Romanyuk, whom we interviewed for EUvsDisinfo, said:
“We once fought for the right to tell the truth. Today we are fighting for the truth to be heard in the sea of disinformation.”
Disinformation is indeed a worrying and persistent trend in information environments around the globe, with state and non-state actors employing it to polarise and confuse open societies. The question “is Russia spreading disinformation” today has turned into “who else is adopting Russia’s tactics”, “what about the impact”, “what about other emerging actors and information manipulation techniques”.
At the same time, responses have evolved – the EU is implementing the European Democracy Action Plan(opens in a new tab) and proposing the Digital Services Act(opens in a new tab), considering ways forward to impose costs on disinformation perpetrators and options to regulate the online space.
Public exposure is one way to push back against disinformation and create reputational cost. As part of the EU’s response to foreign disinformation and manipulation, EUvsDisinfo holds Russia constantly accountable and challenges its ongoing disinformation campaigns(opens in a new tab).
Dear Readers, Partners and Critics. We are now moving on with developing and improving the EUvsDisinfo campaign. We have already made our database more accessible to researchers, and continue working on the creation of a website which will be more interesting, topical and easier for you to use.
We want to hear your views, feedback, and opinions about our work. Do you want to see more events such as the EUvsDisinfo conference in Brussels and Disinfo Alert! in Georgia? Or maybe you work on countering disinformation and would like to see small grants for joint projects?
Share your ideas. We will take your proposals on board in our development work, and come back with an even better, updated EUvsDisinfo.
Some highlights from our journey over the past six years. We exposed South Front as an outlet trying to hide its roots to Russia two years before the US sanctioned it. We have discovered the tactics of EP Today, an outlet that camouflaged itself as a reliable EU website. Our work has encouraged further exposure of foreign disinformation operations originating in India(opens in a new tab) and Russia(opens in a new tab).
Our database answers yet another frequent question: “Where is the evidence?”. Here it is, publicly available, close to 12,000 examples of ongoing pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns. Be that the Salisbury attack, the COVID-19 pandemic, or the most recent military build-up along the Ukrainian border, the database allows you to trace back to the start of the campaign and follow how messages have evolved and spread across some 20 languages.
We regularly share the database’s findings with researchers. Recently these have been used by ASPI(opens in a new tab), the University of Zurich(opens in a new tab) et al., the Stanford Internet Observatory(opens in a new tab), GEC(opens in a new tab), and CAPS/IRSEM(opens in a new tab).
Apart from English and Russian language versions, we translate our products into French, German, Italian and Spanish, and will soon start with translations into Polish and all Eastern Partnership countries’ languages. We provide you with daily analysis of evolving techniques and trends, interview journalists and activists to share their views on countering disinformation, and give hints about what our readers themselves can do.
After six years, EUvsDisinfo has developed into a unique public product. It is managed by the EEAS East Stratcom Task Force(opens in a new tab). The analysis is based on open source and does not represent official EU positions.
We want to hear your voices through the sea of disinformation.
Please share your feedback here(opens in a new tab).
(c) EU vs Disinfo