Europe’s information space at war: when will we start fighting?

In addition to the conventional war in Ukraine, Russia is waging another war much closer to us. It appears on our computers, our phones and tablets In one form or another, it is present whenever we go to search for news online or scroll through our favorite social media feeds.

Since the preparations for the invasion of Ukraine, Europe has been a sharp witness Get up Inside Offensive Information activities, mostly in the form of attempts to flood the online space by describing the interests of the Kremlin through affiliated websites, pages, groups, useful idiots, trolls and bots. On a daily basis, they intercept all information spaces used by residents of the EU and NATO member countries.

These actions are designed to infect the public with manipulative content that deceives, divides and weakens the core of our society. And what is our reaction? We blocked two major Russian websites and continued to hold back democratic talks as if we were all over the world.

Optimism on the one hand

Even if the public is now shocked by the Russian aggression, and traditionally part of the population Strong Pro-Russian sentiments seem to understand who the villains are, we cannot accept these changes and we should not consider them permanent. This would be another mistake by the West after the lack of credible steps to annex Crimea despite calls from the Baltic and Central Europe to activate and deploy a network of Kremlin supporters since 2010.

Even if the conventional war ends within a few weeks, it will endure crises, including continuous offensive information operations and cyber-attacks, and bring unprecedented challenges.

What should be done now?

To slow them down

First and foremost, we must prevent the Kremlin’s propaganda of the most active and influential actors from entering large sections of society. These may be websites, but mostly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts and pages of “media”, activists and political representatives. If direct contact or links to Russia are found, the account should be blocked, such as RT and Sputnik News, as well as other websites that have recently been blocked for sharing misleading information and propaganda. Czech Republic Or Slovakia.

If a direct link cannot be made, which will probably apply in most cases, after violating community standards regarding war propaganda and confusion, every posting on the account or page should be controlled before allowing posting. . This not only reduces the amount of damage to the data space, but also slows down their activity, thus targeting another problem with the huge frequency and volume of this content compared to the quality data.

It actually involves huge technical and human effort, but, in the end, it helps us to protect our freedom of speech to some extent. Content checks do not have to be on the shoulders of the platform. Europe is full of civil society activists, NGOs and fact-checking initiatives who are ready to help and fight.

Implementation across the platform is an important prerequisite here and requires the creation of a board and working group of experts and representatives of the platform, including rapid and proactive information exchange. Wrong? Yes. Will there be instances where regular content is blocked? Yes. But we’re in a war, and that means if we limit the influence of the super-spreaders who are running it, I would say it’s worth it.

Get rid of comments

Another offensive method being used is to infect the discussion with troll and bot displays, emotional statements, hate speech and other deceptive content under each part of the war-related content. Since this happens primarily in the comments section, another measure would be to disable comments “n block” for a limited time. Not only does it help control hate, but it also facilitates the transition from the current algorithmic set-up of social media platforms, based on the maximum number of comments and shared content suggestions.

The Democratic Forces of the Elves

Once the comments are blocked, there is a clear opportunity for all pro-democracy actors across the private, public and civic sectors to fight. Without any deceptive and divisive comments under quality articles, sharing can suddenly become an enjoyable activity, through which content can be retrieved from recognized sources and become an influential opinion-forming force in place of information in each country. The Elves Already working in the Baltics, now is the right time to try to apply this model across the European Union.

Now or never

At times when democratic societies and values ​​are directly attacked in the online space, the response cannot be based on soft action. That should be sufficient enough to compensate for our opponent’s approach and influence. Where the blockade of RT and Sputnik News in Europe was a bold start. The next steps should be more bold and include a broader stakeholder alliance. We can win this battle, but all pro-democracy actors must now be active in balancing the flood of information attacks by value-based and fact-tested content. Now is the time to work with everyone behind the table.

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