Kremlin disinformation campaign extremely successful – EU East Stratcom

Putin The TV Puppet Master (Image: Zina Saunders)

Putin The TV Puppet Master (Image: Zina Saunders) 

2017/01/20 - 01:08 • Analysis & Opinion

Article by: EU East Stratcom

There is no doubt that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy, delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, and as often as possible. Our conclusion is based on 15 months of daily collection of data on disinformation: more than 2,500 examples in 18 languages of stories contradicting publicly available facts, multiplied in many languages and repeated on a daily basis.

This is also the conclusion of many experts in this field, such as journalists from StopFake, who regularly catalogue fake news and expose how a particular piece of disinformation gets spread and multiplied via various channels and languages (see a case study of this phenomenon).

The disinformation campaign is a non-military measure for achieving political goals.

Russian authorities are explicit about this, for example through the infamous Gerasimov doctrine as well as through statements by top Russian generals that the use of “false data” and “destabilising propaganda” are legitimate tools in the tool kit. The Russian Minister of Defence describes information as “another type of armed forces”. Russian journalists were awarded Presidential medals for misrepresenting events in Crimea.

Read also: A guide to Russian propaganda, Part 1: Propaganda prepares Russia for war

The aim of this disinformation campaign is to weaken and destabilize the West,

by exploiting existing divisions or creating artificial new ones. Those divisions can be on the strategic level: for example the EU versus NATO/US (where NATO/US is frequently described as an occupying power in European countries), or differences between EU Member States (typically on the issue of Russian sanctions). They can also be on a local level, exploiting minority issues or the fear of refugees. Among the artificial divisions, a conflict between basic human rights and traditional values is often used.

Often, outright lies are deployed, aimed at denigrating a particular person (1), political group, government (2) or intergovernmental organisation (3), as well as NGOs, mainstream media, elites, experts, the “establishment”, and those taking initiatives to counter disinformation.

Read also: A guide to Russian propaganda, Part 2: Whataboutism

Another strategy is to spread as many conflicting messages as possible, in order to persuade the audience that there are so many versions of events that it is impossible to find the truth. Particularly obvious examples include the clear obfuscation over the downing of flight MH17, Boris Nemtsov’s assassination and the bombing of a humanitarian convoy in Syria.

Read also: A guide to Russian propaganda, Part 3: Rapid fire conspiracy theories

A disinformation campaign, just like any other PR campaign, works over time by building familiarity with and acceptance of its messages

What are the tools of disinformation? We do not have a complete overview, as there is still not enough systematic research. What we do know, thanks to our own Disinformation Review as well as local activities like StopFake and Kremlin Watch, is that not only big media outlets like RT or Sputnik are deployed, but also seemingly marginal sources, like fringe websites, blog sites and Facebook pages.

Trolls are deployed not only to amplify disinformation messages but to bully those, like Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, brave enough to oppose them. And the network goes wider: NGOs and “GONGOs“ (government organised NGOs); Russian government representatives; and other pro-Kremlin mouthpieces in Europe, often on the far-right and far-left (4). In all, literally thousands of channels are used to spread pro-Kremlin disinformation, all creating an impression of seemingly independent sources confirming each other’s message.

The impression we have – though again, more research is needed – is that different tools have a different degree of importance in different regions.

Targeting the Russian-speaking minority seems the most important tool in the Baltic states, whereas in Central Europe it seems to be the use of dozens of “alternative“ websites, while trolling seems most prevalent in Scandinavia.

What is the influence of the disinformation campaign?

Again, we cannot be sure, without looking inside the heads of individual citizens and voters and seeing what influenced their opinions and decisions.

But a disinformation campaign, just like any other PR campaign, works over time by building familiarity with and acceptance of its messages, through multiple channels; sowing mistrust in mainstream media, authorities, or any solid sources of information in general.

Looking ahead to 2017, both Germany and France are already warning of the threat of disinformation attacks on their elections, while several European security services have spoken openly about the threat of hostile Russian disinformation activities.

Is the disinformation campaign successful? Definitely yes.

The purpose of a disinformation campaign is not to make consumers like the outlets but to buy the disinformation message as credible information

Just as the purpose of a campaign run by a car brand is not to make the consumer like their advertisement in this or that magazine, but to buy the car, similarly the purpose of a disinformation campaign is not to make consumers like the outlets but to buy the disinformation message as credible information. And many of us are buying. If we look at those few focused opinion polls measuring how many people accept an obvious disinformation planted in pro-Kremlin media (5), we have to conclude that the disinformation campaign is extremely successful. It’s incumbent on us all to be more careful what we consume.

ENDNOTES

Disclaimer: This paper contains the expert view of the East StratCom Task Force and does not reflect official EU policies.

 

Source: Originally published by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)

  • Dirk Smith

    Only if you’re an imbecile or drunken vatnik slave.

  • Alex George

    A good article. To some it will just be a statement of the obvious, but for many others, it will assist them to make sense of a phenomenon they have sensed but not really understood.

    The primary means of defeating a disinformation campaign is to expose it, repeatedly.

    The Russian propaganda services have seen the internet as a strength for them, which it is, but it is also a weakness: It enables many people of good will to join the fight, adn to refute their propaganda with facts and reasoned argument. Eventually, the truth always takes hold

  • zorbatheturk

    Brexit was a ruSSian disinformation success.

    • туфтуф

      Sure it was. But on the other hand, Brits have almost an instinct to first abandon the sinking ship. Like rats do.

      • Alex George

        If you think the EU is a sinking ship then you are deluded. Brexit is demonstrating its strength.

        USA is the largest world economy, EU is the second largest. China is a long way back in third.

        And eurosceptic whack-jobs have been confidently predicting the demise of the EEC/EU for 50 years. Its collapse is always just about to happen. And here we still are, and here the EU still is, making tis member nations more prosperous.

        • туфтуф

          Us might be, but it depends a lot on trade. That makes it vulnerable to fear of nuclear attack. 1 bomb hits NY and US goes meadieval.

          • Brent

            Dream on little mindless sheeple!!! You not only have to take out New York, but also Chicago, L.A., Washington and many other U.S. cities before the U.S. “goes medieval”. All you have to is take out Muscovy and there goes the head of your beloved Russian snake.

          • туфтуф

            No. NY stock exchange and they go medieval.

          • Alex George

            Yes, and the moon is made of green cheese. Keep dreaming, little man.

          • туфтуф

            Are we slow a little? Lol

          • Alex George

            *LMAO* Typical Russian troll – fantasizes about a nuclear attack on New York!

          • туфтуф

            There will be NO nuke attack on NY. There will be, and is FEAR of nuclear attack.

          • Brent

            Don’t trip over yourself backpedalling so fast “Toto”….did you learn that move from Drumpf?

        • туфтуф

          Countries leaving EU demonsyrate EU power. Interesting logic. Lemme break news to u: Moldova is to annul the EU association agreement. I guess it will make EU even more stronger than it is. Lolz

          • Alex George

            Indeed it does. Brexit is providing an excellent demonstration of the EU’s strength.

            Lemme break news to u – even Moldova is not doing anything of the sort.

            As I wrote, USA is the largest world economy, EU is the second largest. China is a long way back in third.

            And eurosceptic whack-jobs have been confidently predicting the demise of the EEC/EU for 50 years. Its collapse is always just about to happen. And here we still are, and here the EU still is, making tis member nations more prosperous.

          • туфтуф

            Moldova threatens to anull the association agreement.

          • Alex George

            No, Moldova’s President threatens that . He is well known as a Putin stooge. But his Prime Minster and Parlaiment don’t agree with him.

          • туфтуф

            Not agreeing with the stooge? Thats ducking serious. Lolz

          • Alex George

            No, its just the fact. Moldova isn’t threatening to annul the association agreement. Next time, check your facts before posting.

      • zorbatheturk

        What’s sinking is your ruSSian craphole, tovarish.

    • Quartermaster

      Hardly. The biggest force in Brexit was Brussells’ stupidity. Putin can only dream about such things.

      • zorbatheturk

        Kremtrolls were posting 24/7 tens of thousands of comments dissing the EU on British media sites, posing as Ukippers, anti-immigrants, anti-Muslims, etc. Funny since ruSSia let’s all Muslims from the former Soviet Muslim republics like Uzbekistan live and work in the RF.

  • Terry Washington

    Perhaps Donald Trump should reinstate the US Information Agency(disbanded at the end of the Cold War).To his credit, the then US President Dwight Eisenhower recognized that the “Cold War” would be fought on the battlefield of words as well as with force of arms(pace Korea and Vietnam)!