Kremlin’s lies – EU’s response to disinformation

On the 23rd of June in Brussels, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe held the public seminar “Kremlin’s lies – EU’s response to disinformation” in the European Parliament. Livecasts of this event are available here.

“Annually the Russian state allocates 1 billion EUR for the operation of state run TV and online media in Russia and beyond”, says Guy Verhofstadt, President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament. Sputnik Online, a radio agency financed by the Russian state, is available in 38 languages.

Information war is only part of the hybrid war which the EU has to face, stressed Petras Auštrevičius, ALDE Group Vice-President. Also he says:

Yesterday it was the Dutch referendum; today is Brexit; tomorrow is Madam Le Pen’s campaign. …It is a noble secret that these parties and individuals had been continuously financially supported by Kremlin.

27852634515_9a073a0e41_oIn respond to Kremlin’s disinformation strategies – a powerful tool of Russia’s hybrid warfare, the EU develops instruments and strategies to counteract this disinformation by free, fair and accountable press as well as by strengthening the legal basis to counteract propaganda. Although Kremlin used disinformation during the war against Georgia in 2008, it was politically incorrect to talk about Russia’s propaganda. Ukraine crisis became an eye-opener for the EU that currently has to respond and counteract disinformation and propaganda.

Head of EEAS East StratCom Task Force Giles Portman presented the results of the working group, which was created in March 2015 to counteract disinformation. The goal of the StratCom Team is not only to counteract propaganda, but also develop positive communication campaigns and spread positive narratives about the EU in different languages, including Russian. To counter disinformation, the working group focuses at identifying propaganda, raises awareness of citizens about the issue by developing a database on disinformation, showing where it is coming from and what are the trends in the propaganda content and instruments.

Steffen Dobbert, editor and reporter for Die Zeit Online and research fellow in Berlin working on new hybrid warfare, presented the case of disinformation in Germany – the well-known fake story about a 13-year-old girl Lisa who was allegedly raped. As a result of this story, ten thousand of Russian speaking Germans went to the streets of different cities in an organized manner. Also, Minister Lavrov accused the German police in covering up Lisa’s case. The entire case was closely related to the debate about refugees. The issue of refugees is highly instrumentalised by Kremlin to create negative images of Europe.

Senior Fellow of the Institute for Statecraft (UK) Ben Nimmo describes information as an ecosystem where disinformation spreads as a disease – very fast if people are not aware of it. The contagion of this “ecosystem” by disinformation occurs by 4Ds: Dismiss, Distort, Destruct, Dismay.

Jakub Janda, Head of Kremlin Watch Program, Deputy Director at European Values Think-Tank (CZ), presented the key elements for Strategy to Counter Disinformation. The full document is available here.

In her concluding remarks ALDE MEP Marietje Schaake suggested that more awareness-raising activities are needed not only on disinformation strategies by media, but also about activities of the NGO’s and political parties that are funded and used by Kremlin.

Photo credit: ALDE Communication