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European elections: Europe is unable to stop the tsunami of Russian disinformation

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The Stratcom task force is at the forefront of Brussels' battle against disinformation. But its resources are limited

The task force set up by Brussels against disinformation last month uncovered a Russian-language YouTube video that said citizens are running to escape the dictatorship in Poland and seek refuge in Belarus, a close ally of Moscow.

It is a prime example of the pro-Russian narratives that want Warsaw to harbor aggressive military ambitions and democratic institutions to collapse in Poland and the wider European Union, says the European group, known as Stratcom.

Russia is widely believed that it orchestrated disinformation campaigns to influence election results in the US, Europe and Britain this decade, although Moscow denies using fake news to sway public opinion.

< p>A 2023 US intelligence report found that Russia is using spies, social media and state-run Russian media to create suspicion about the integrity of elections around the world.

European officials have long warned of Russian influence campaigns ahead of the June 6 European elections, but the consequences of these efforts are difficult to assess.

“Influence operations by Russia, China and other powers, including domestic groups, have the potential to disrupt online discussions about the EU election,” Jack Stamps of social media analytics firm Graphika told Reuters.

“We've seen indications that even those implementing these campaigns are struggling to understand whether they're working,” he said.

Stratcom, a 40-strong team operating on a shoestring budget of €15 million a year, is at the forefront of Brussels' battle against disinformation. However, the Union's resources are limited, two European officials said.

“We cannot implement aggressive campaigns from Brussels,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission's diplomatic service. Such actions are carried out at the member country level, he said.

This leaves the major parties vulnerable to disinformation campaigns that magnify voter resentment and ultimately fuel support for nationalist parties in countries such as France and Germany.

According to the EU's annual disinformation report, Poland and Germany is the most frequently targeted countries in the EU. France and non-member Serbia are also high on the list.

Fragmented defence

Moscow, whose relations with Europe hit a nadir after Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, accuses the West of waging an information war based on false claims portraying Russia as a hostile power.

Its officials Russia, which has suppressed any voice of protest against President Vladimir Putin, claims the West refuses to accept any view that contradicts the dominant narrative.

French European Affairs Minister Jean-Noel Barot said in April in the newspaper Ouest France that the country is being “pounded” by Russian propaganda.

The attacks against France include the creation of a fake government website that said 200,000 civilians were being drafted into the Ukrainian front. Groups linked to the Kremlin are also accused of fanning the hysteria over the presence of bed bugs in Paris. exert influence on the European elections,” Baro told the newspaper.

In Poland, Tomasz Clon, the international disinformation commissioner, said that blocking suspicious websites is like squeezing a balloon, as they immediately reappear at other addresses.

Efforts against disinformation vary across European countries.


France has the Viginum team, with a staff of 42 and growing, tasked with monitoring Russia-linked social media accounts and uncovering influence operations.

Spain also has a dedicated team. It even uses equipment designed by Europol to coordinate its operations.

Slovakia, whose government is accused of looking favorably on Russia, has all but shut down a group it says was staffed by “activists” who wanted to ensure that “there is only one right view”.

“Tackling efforts are fragmented,” said Valentin Chatelet, a researcher at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Lab.

In a sign that Europe wants to take a tougher stance, European governments last month banned four Russian media outlets, including the Czech-based Voice of Europe, accusing them of spreading propaganda on behalf of the Kremlin.

Moscow has warned of retaliation against Western journalists in Russia.

The new Europe's Digital Services Regulation requires major platforms to do more to tackle illegal and misleading content.

But advances in artificial intelligence are allowing foreign agents to spread fake news faster and easier than ever before. , European officials say.

As Stano, the representative of the Commission's diplomatic service, put it, “before we had the trolls and the bots, behind which there was usually a person. Now with AI, everything has multiplied”.

source: in.gr

Source: 24h.com.cy

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