How the EU deals with disinformation

With the vast interconnectivity that the world now experiences due to the growing population of internet users, unforeseen consequences have arisen that are yet to be remedied.

One of these problems is the rise of what many like to call “fake news”. This is falsified information that is interwoven into news articles that are designed to be as believable as possible, aiming to stir hatred, bolster political agendas, or simply to modify events to suit one group over another.

The term “fake news” has been called into question however, with many now preferring to call it disinformation. This helps to illustrate better that it is much closer to propaganda than it is to actual news.

Propaganda has permeated the social media and news website landscape, many no longer realising what is propaganda and what is not, which makes the jobs of groups such as EU vs Disinformation that much more difficult.

The EU vs Disinformation campaign was established to combat primarily Russian generated propaganda and disinformation online, and was set up by the European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force.

Russian backed propaganda has caused a mass influx of lies and deceit that has infested almost all forms of media. To understand the extent of disinformation that has been spread by pro-Kremlin sources, since its inception in 2015 the EUvsDisinfo taskforce has uncovered more than 3,800 cases. This year alone (2018), there has been almost a thousand such cases, coming in at around 977 at the time of writing. In the last week alone there has been roughly 35 cases.  

While it is not only pro-Kremlin disinformation that is being published, EUvsDisinfo works solely against this form of news propaganda. This has been a point of contention for many who are against groups such as EUvsDisinfo, as it could also be very easily claimed that a large number of pro-White House disinformation also exists, and to a far lesser extent pro-EU disinformation (this latter, however, would not be backed by the institution).

It is undeniable that the pro-Kremlin sources of disinformation are much more prevalent, however, as there is no other country that has managed to spread into so many other countries with such success.

An older example of Russian disinformation and propaganda that a lot of people may remember is the chemical weapon attack that happened in Syria earlier this year. At the time it was said that upwards of 70 civilians were killed. This attack was followed by a coalition airstrike, and this is where some EU nations come into play, orchestrated by forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France among others, which reportedly killed a further 40 people or more.

Moscow sources had been very forward in denying that chemical weapons were even used to begin with, but there is little to no evidence to support this. According to the BBC, the United Nations Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was delayed in surveying the scene of the attack, as they had come under fire during their risk assessment. Russia had also used the coalition airstrikes to boast about the Syrian Army’s own superiority, claiming falsely that 71 of 103 coalition missiles were shot down.

A much more recent example of the prevalence of disinformation comes in the form of information that was being spread in relation to the yellow vest protests in France, with pro-Kremlin sources having a penchant for portraying Europe as being almost close to breaking point, or more extremely France being on the verge of full scale civil war.

As EUvsDisinfo puts it, “another case from this week, about an armoured EU vehicle allegedly suppressing French protesters, perfectly fits the narrative about Europe in chaos (and possibly on the brink of civil war). The ‘news’ was debunked by Le Monde, saying that the EU flag on one of the vehicles had to do with its previous participation in European training.”

Alternatively, the USA has been portrayed as being the driving force behind the yellow vest protests, oddly enough. “We have also witnessed a well-known blame game, with the US shown as the one provoking the ‘yellow vests’ protests, in the hope of weakening Europe’s position in the world. A classical move of pro-Kremlin disinformation, strengthening the picture of Europe in weakness, chaos and disarray.”

A long, never-ending repeating cycle of disinformation and propaganda has continued, and may go unending if it was not for the work of EU vs Disinformation and other task forces like it that battle it wherever it may pop up.

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