Information Warfare Machine: How to Deal with Kremlin Fakes

7 April, 04:50 PM
Margarita Simonyan (Photo:Маргарита Симоньян / Twitter)

Margarita Simonyan (Photo:Маргарита Симоньян / Twitter)

Putin's regime has a giant information war machine, underestimated in terms of its level of danger to the democratic world.

The events in Eastern Europe give impulses to achieve greater unity and solidarity on the information front in the battle between totalitarian evil and the democratic world, in the struggle for the actual reality rather than a twisted one imposed by neo-totalitarian Russia.

An open letter, signed by the Prime Ministers of eight countries — Dorin Recan of Moldova, Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic, Eduard Heger of Slovakia, Kaja Kallas of Estonia, Kristianis Karins of Latvia, Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Ingrida Simonite of Lithuania and Denys Shmyhal of Ukraine (published on March 29, 2023, 2011) — calls on the leaders of major tech companies to take action "against the disinformation that undermines our peace and stability." Therefore, European countries call on Big Tech to block the streams of false news, which are aimed, in particular, at undermining support for Ukraine.

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Moldova initiated the letter, which became the target of powerful disinformation waves from Russia because of its support for Kyiv. Just a month ago, Moldovan President Maia Sandu accused Russia of inciting violence and trying to overthrow her government, partly to prevent her country from joining the European Union. “Technology platforms…  became the virtual battlegrounds, and hostile foreign powers are using them to spread false narratives, which contradict the information of fact-based news agencies. Disinformation is one of their most important and powerful weapons. It creates and spreads false narratives for strategical promotion of malicious purposes," the letter said.

As strategic communications experts insist: the cleavage between society and the state is the dream of any aggressor state that seeks to destroy this or that country. Putin's regime has a giant information war machine, underestimated in terms of its level of danger to the democratic world. Russia's war against Ukraine, which is fought on all possible levels, is Russia's war against Europe and the world. However, while the hot phase is going on in Ukraine, Russia also carries out an offensive on the information front worldwide. Combat operations are being intensively conducted in all countries, without exception, for every human soul. Putin's regime  attacks freedom of speech and democratic media work standards regularly with its manipulative communication policy.

Therefore, the organizational capacity of the union of all democratic forces is critical. Each allied nation should genuinely understand each other's strengths in the information space.

There are already institutions in Europe and the USA to defeat the Kremlin's fakes

Back in the summer of 2022, intent on strengthening countermeasures against information operations from the Russian Federation, Ukraine offered for state bodies and public organizations to promote a unified position in the field of information security, especially during interactions with US social networks and platforms. As a result, the working groups proposed the following algorithm of specific actions, which can be adjusted and supplemented with colleagues from the partner countries.

I will cite only a couple of examples:

— Deactivating accounts on social networks that share the Kremlin propaganda content (except for journalistic purposes), threaten a particular country, or distribute content that justifies war.

— Conduct real-time reporting to authorities of suspected or proven human rights violations or coordinated information attacks by the Russian Federation, which are detected on these platforms.

— Track the retention by platforms of content and accounts deleted in violation of the platforms' policies, including any evidence of war crimes and information operations supported by the Kremlin, for further use by law enforcement agencies.

— Monitor inactive accounts that may have been created in preparation for Russia's information operation and may be used to spread disinformation and hate speech in the future.

— Create an early warning system about active information and online attacks. It involves warning platforms of partners in the governments and civil society about discovered accounts or networks of accounts that may operate within the framework of information operations of the Russian Federation.

— Continue prioritizing trusted sources in the news feed and the content recommendation system.

— Deplatform Russian propaganda sources. In particular, removing the Kremlin-controlled media pages; pages of propagandists, i.e., pseudo-journalists working for Kremlin-controlled media; the pages of Russian politicians and diplomats; and the pages of the pseudo-authorities created by Russia in the temporarily occupied territories.

Publicizing the positions of the joint efforts of Ukraine and international partners will ensure the maximum transparency of the process. Furthermore, the joint implementation of these principles will help during future negotiations with large technology companies in the field of preventing and countering information operations and the spread of disinformation by the Russian Federation.

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In the current war conditions, human security and state security topics come to the fore. Therefore, essential in the joint open letter of the heads of European governments are the following actions - requests to technology companies to allocate more resources to respond to false narratives; to adjust the algorithms to prioritize accuracy and truth over engagement; and also to clearly flag deepfakes and automated posts, including those created by artificial intelligence.

There are already institutions in Europe and the USA to defeat the Kremlin's fakes. We also have CSKIB, which constantly refutes fakes and explains what is happening with evidence and facts.

However, on the information front, moving to a more proactive and common position is necessary for all European and North American countries that share democratic values.

The experience of hostilities in Ukraine shows that the best defense is a good offense. Therefore, transitioning from the defense to an information offensive is already underway in the information sphere. Since last summer, Ukraine has promoted the idea of "Information Ramstein" — an initiative that a unified front of allied countries has already started.

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