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Anti-Western Disinformation on Ukraine Resonating in Eastern Europe

February 25th, 2022 13:09

Inde­pen­dent Russ­ian media is report­ing that anti-West­ern dis­in­for­ma­tion is mak­ing sur­pris­ing inroads in east­ern Europe, a region once dom­i­nat­ed by Moscow and with a deep resent­ment of Rus­sia. Accord­ing to a Moscow Times report:

Feb­ru­ary 23, 2022   In east­ern Europe, a region once dom­i­nat­ed by Moscow and with deep resent­ment of Rus­sia, anti-West­ern dis­in­for­ma­tion is mak­ing sur­pris­ing inroads as the Ukraine cri­sis deep­ens.  In recent weeks, videos have cir­cu­lat­ed online in the region, sup­pos­ed­ly show­ing Ukrain­ian troops get­ting ready for an inva­sion or enter­ing Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry — claims reject­ed as false by Kyiv.  AFP Fact Check found some of these videos showed unre­lat­ed mil­i­tary drills filmed years ear­li­er. Some of the footage came from 2014, when Rus­sia annexed Crimea, while anoth­er was a 2018 video mas­querad­ing as a BBC report.  Some fakes “por­tray NATO as the one being respon­si­ble for the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, while Rus­sia is sup­pos­ed­ly just resist­ing long-stand­ing efforts to threat­en its secu­ri­ty,” said Bohu­mil Kar­tous, a spokesman for the Czech Elves, an online vig­i­lante group.  “This res­onates with a cer­tain seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion,” he added, refer­ring to the Czech Repub­lic, which has sent ammu­ni­tion to help Ukraine.  “For some, it builds on sim­i­lar ear­li­er claims and cements their con­vic­tion. For oth­ers, it cre­ates a sense of inse­cu­ri­ty which in turn cre­ates resis­tance to the (Czech) gov­ern­men­t’s efforts to help Ukraine defend itself,” he said. Many mis­lead­ing posts por­tray the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment as cor­rupt, neo-Nazi and rus­so­pho­bic.  That kind of rhetoric is “straight out of Putin’s mouth,” accord­ing to Fran­tisek Vra­bel, the founder and CEO of Prague-based Seman­tic Visions, which iden­ti­fies poten­tial dis­in­for­ma­tion based on the use of lan­guage pat­terns online. Vra­bel told AFP that the sheer amount of anti-Ukrain­ian and anti-NATO rhetoric increased 75 times online since last Octo­ber in the Czech Repub­lic alone and has replaced Covid-19 as the main top­ic of disinformation.

Read the rest here.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) recent­ly report­ed on a study exam­in­ing the sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to malign for­eign influ­ence in eight Cen­tral Euro­pean and West­ern Balkan coun­tries. The study iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing key fac­tors as play­ing an essen­tial role in facil­i­tat­ing malign for­eign influ­ence across Cen­tral Europe and the West­ern Balkans:

  • Post-com­mu­nist legacy
  • Pan-Slav­ism
  • Role of the Ortho­dox Church
  • Infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ments affect­ed by ram­pant dis­in­for­ma­tion and infor­ma­tion manipulation
  • Deeply embed­ded cul­tures of corruption