French media is reporting that in Lithuania, Russia’s neighbor and the first Soviet republic to declare its independence from the bloc in 1990, an online army of volunteers take to the internet every day to fight the constant stream of Russian fake news and propaganda. According to a France24 report:
January 23, 2022 During the day, he works normal hours, at a normal job with a normal title. But after hours, and during pretty much any break he gets, this 50-something father-of-two turns into an online warrior, fighting Russian trolls under the nom-de-guerre Hawk from his phone or laptop in Vilnius. “I monitor toxic pages and try to find fake news, mainly on Facebook, because that’s where most Russian trolls are,” he said in a telephone interview with FRANCE 24. “Disinformation is really dangerous: It poisons brains, and tries to divide people – especially in free societies – lately with lies about the [Covid-19] vaccine and stuff like that.” More recently, he has also been dedicating some of his time to sharing memes of the Russian army “to show that Russia isn’t as big, scary and terrible as it makes itself out to be.” […] Although the grassroots movement started out small – “a small group of friends, and then friends inviting friends” – the Elves now have an army of around 4,000 volunteers in Lithuania. “Most of us are really dedicated and spend every free minute we have on the Elves, searching and monitoring,” he said, estimating his own weekly input with the Elves at around 20 hours. […] Like Hawk, most Elves try to stay under the radar, rarely revealing their links to the group to avoid coming under personal attack from the trolls. “I don’t tell anyone I’m an Elf, and I don’t talk about the Elves at all. If someone asks me about them I say ‘yes, I’ve heard about the Elves’, but that’s it.”
Read the rest here.
The report notes that since 15 percent of Lithuania’s population are Russian speakers, the country – like Estonia and Latvia — has become an easy and frequent target for Russian fake news and disinformation.
In November, the Global Influence Operations Report reported on Russia’s main tools of influence in attempting to transform Lithuania’s information environment. These include not only media registered in the Russian Federation but also a broad range of allegedly independent Russian outlets and experts, bloggers, and influencers who actively disseminate pro-Kremlin narratives on social media.
In April, we recommended a NATO study assessing Lithuania’s measures to counter Russian disinformation, arguing that by building resilience and imposing costs, the efforts by Lithuanian authorities and NGOs yielded considerable results.