X

New Report Investigates European Responses To Russian And Chinese Covid-19-Related Disinformation

January 13th, 2022 15:50

The Hague Pro­gram for Cyber Norms, a Dutch think tank affil­i­at­ed with Lei­den Uni­ver­si­ty, has recent­ly pub­lished a report inves­ti­gat­ing Euro­pean respons­es to Covid-19-relat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion and for­eign influ­ence oper­a­tions, Accord­ing to the report:

Decem­ber 2021 This research project inves­ti­gates how Euro­pean states have respond­ed to infor­ma­tion influ­ence  oper­a­tions relat­ed to COVID-19, par­tic­u­lar­ly inves­ti­gat­ing the role of for­eign sources of influ­ence.  Our objec­tive has been to bet­ter under­stand the new chal­lenges – both in prac­tice and research –  that have arisen from nation­al expe­ri­ences. The ques­tions that guid­ed our research project have  been: How has the con­text of a pan­dem­ic impact­ed the way Euro­pean states counter infor­ma­tion  influ­ence? Which pol­i­cy trends have emerged and which results have they yield­ed? Which issues  gen­er­at­ed diver­gence and/or con­ver­gence across Europe?

In the fol­low­ing sec­tions of this intro­duc­tion, we delve into five top­ics of debate that derived   from our nation­al reports on France, Ger­many, Hun­gary, Ser­bia, Swe­den, and the Unit­ed  King­dom. First, we explore the inter­na­tion­al dimen­sion of Euro­pean respons­es to the ‘info­dem­ic’  focus­ing on the UN process­es in which dis­in­for­ma­tion is being dis­cussed. Sec­ond, we exam­ine   the types of Euro­pean respons­es coun­ter­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion: actor-cen­tred, con­tent-cen­tred,   and dis­sem­i­na­tion-focused mea­sures. Third, we analyse the var­i­ous nation­al insti­tu­tion­al   set-ups and legal frame­works deal­ing with dis­in­for­ma­tion and what devel­op­ments we might   expect in the future. Fourth, we dis­cuss nation­al and Euro­pean efforts to reg­u­late online   plat­forms, a con­tentious and hot top­ic in Europe. Fifth, we analyse the impli­ca­tions of counter- mea­sures for democ­ra­cy and indi­vid­ual rights and free­doms. Final­ly, we draw some con­clu­sions   on the issue of respond­ing to infor­ma­tion influ­ence, before pro­vid­ing pol­i­cy recommendations.

Read the full report here.

The report argues that influ­ence oper­a­tions are effec­tive when actors exploit polit­i­cal and soci­etal divi­sions in tar­get countries..The report demon­strates that west­ern coun­tries such as France, Swe­den, Ger­many, the Unit­ed King­dom, Ser­bia, and Hun­gary have proven vul­ner­a­ble to influ­ence cam­paigns that exploit this weak­ness. The report also argues that to some coun­tries, such as Rus­sia, dis­in­for­ma­tion is a rel­a­tive­ly cheap and safe way to exer­cise pow­er abroad. In con­trast, oth­ers, such as Chi­na, seem less intent on cre­at­ing soci­etal unrest but rather seek to pro­tect and pro­mote their inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion. How­ev­er, we recent­ly report­ed that the objec­tives of China’s influ­ence oper­a­tions in Europe have shift­ed in recent years from using pro­pa­gan­da to boost its image to adopt­ing more coor­di­nat­ed efforts to spread dis­in­for­ma­tion and pro-Chi­na narratives.