Russian disinformation is fast-moving, and government efforts tend to be localized and slower than those of the private sector and civil society, according to a new report. Think tanks and civil society organizations, including the European Endowment for Democracy, the Center for European Policy Analysis, and the Baltic Centre for Media Excellence, have launched various projects to highlight and analyze Russian disinformation.
However, creating a fund at the EU and/or NATO level that is focused on supporting such private sector and civil society efforts would have multiplier effects in responding to Russian propaganda by supporting efforts to educate journalists and backing government efforts to educate and communicate with their publics, the Atlantic Council’s Franklin D. Kramer and Lauren M. Speranza write in Meeting the Russian Hybrid Challenge,
Western democracies should “limit Russian political activities and financial investment by a) barring support of political parties by Russia and Russian-controlled entities, and b) expanding reviews of financial transactions by Russian entities that could lead to detrimental impacts on the national security, economy, and/or democratic functioning of a country,” they contend.
While key officials on both sides of the Atlantic have publicly acknowledged this challenge and its potential to seriously undermine democracy, transatlantic values, and institutions, the West has yet to develop a comprehensive response,” the authors add.
“While the current efforts of NATO, the EU, and individual nations are all worthwhile, it would be highly valuable to focus enhanced efforts on limiting Russian interference in elections, discrediting the main sources of Russian disinformation, and enhancing the resilience of the citizenry by assuring available balanced media and information flows,” they contend:
First, develop a comprehensive response to election interference, which could include:
- a voluntary code of standards for online media provided information in the context of elections, which could build on the existing Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online and further draw from national legal requirements regarding defamation, privacy, and objectivity (such as in Germany and the United Kingdom);
- working with private sector online companies to block and/or limit the reach of Russian information efforts aimed at impacting elections that do not meet the criteria of the voluntary code;
- national governments having the capacity to fine, sanction, close the bank accounts of, restrict funding to, or suspend operating licenses of foreign or foreign-directed media in the event of demonstrated election interference…
- widely accessible measures, including, for instance, by establishing a public “dashboard,” or other digital means, that identifies the falsity and lack of objectivity of Russian-generated media;
- establishing a fund to support civil society and other private sector efforts to respond to Russian disinformation with a focus on educating journalists, as well as the broader public; and
- enhancing the capacity for countering disinformation within EU and NATO nations and expanding resources for the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) East StratCom Task Force and other NATO, EU, and national counter-disinformation efforts.
Third, work with the private sector to develop comprehensive available sources of information so that the public has access to and can develop a resilient understanding of today’s extensive information flows. ….