The geopolitics of disinformation and cybersecurity in Europe

The free flow of information is a crucial tool to counter disinformation.

This article explores the link between disinformation and cybersecurity that could lead to different effects on society, in relation to the current events in Russia and Ukraine

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, nations across Europe rose to respond to the crisis, raising questions, not only about its consequences for the affected countries and beyond but also about various implications around disinformation and digital rights.

According to intelligence, Russia plans a massive false flag operation to ‘dehumanize’ Ukrainians and accuse Ukraine of alleged inhuman actions. Don’t trust fakes. Ukraine defends its land in a just and defensive war. Unlike Russia, we don’t target kindergartens and civilians.

Cindy Otis, a disinformation researcher and former CIA analyst interviewed by TIME, identifies one of the main tactics as disinformation in the battlefield that intimidates and demoralizes the Ukrainian military and civilian population. Russian propaganda has been especially widespread through Telegram, a popular messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption.

Meanwhile, Western countries continuously receive an immediate stream of information from a number of different sources, which may often create an information overload — inevitably, some of it is disinformation shared from one news outlet to another, either as deliberate media manipulation, or inadvertently.

On February 26, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for digital transformation, announced on Twitter the creation of an IT army for defense and counterattacks, calling “digital talents” to join the resistance effort.

There is an ongoing dilemma around disinformation, censorship, and freedom of expression, particularly as governments introduce regulation of social media in the interest of addressing false information. Platform companies have their own moderation policies, which have sometimes drawn criticism of restricting legitimate speech. While governments can take a direct role in promoting transparent content moderation online, there’s also a risk that some governments may label critical content as disinformation, thus limiting free speech.

“…the free flow of information is a critical element of freedom of expression and places a positive obligation on States to proactively put information of public interest in the public domain, and promote plural and diverse sources of information, including media freedom. It can be a valuable tool for countering disinformation.”

At the EU level, given that disinformation and misinformation represent an evolving threat, there are many initiatives against them highlighting, among other things, the need for cooperation, fact-checking, and building societal resilience and credible sources of information, especially in cyberspace.

Evidently, the rise of new technologies is heavily impacting aspects of modern-day life — the extent of this crisis still remains an open question. In the midst of the rapid growth of online information and disinformation, it’s important to foster a quality societal dialogue that aims to connect individuals, rather than isolate them from each other.



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