DISINFORMATION AND MISINFOMATION

 

Disinformation has already become a major challenge, even for the most powerful countries and organizations, including our allies – the United States, European Union and NATO. However, a reluctant approach to disinformation has already impacted the election results of several countries (such as the USA and the UK), has cost billions of euros and has even created preconditions for strengthening the overall social climate of insecurity.

 

According to the 2019 report by researchers at Oxford University,  the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled to 70 in the last two years, with evidence of at least one political party or government entity in each of those countries engaging in social media manipulation.  Speaking of social media, a study conducted by MIT in 2018 has shown that disinformation travels on Twitter six times faster than facts. Why so? Because most of the time you don't even need people. 

 

Automated fake accounts on social media, known as bots, are used to spread false narratives creating a buzz around a particular topic and thus luring real people into reading made up information. Bots are not intrinsically bad - it just depends who uses them and what for.

 

The 2016 U.S. presidential election became a text-book example of using troll farms for influence operations with St. Petersburg based Internet Research Agency (IRA) being the most prominent one. Researchers from University of Nebraska broke out a variety of key tactics used by the IRA to target audiences in the United states - for example, the Facebook and Instagram ads, which were run by both Right and Left-leaning pages, as well as Black community-targeted pages, reinforced themes and messages to clearly-defined audiences. 


In the Baltic region, the biggest threat is posed by Russian state media outlets (such as Sputnik, RT, Rubaltic) and fringe media in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland, which tends to amplify pro-Kremlin messages in local languages.

 

Disinformation efforts coming out of countries such as Russia, China, and Iran are recognized as the biggest threats to national security by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, European Union, United Kingdom. In the Baltic countries, Russia and China were defined as the biggest threats to national security by Lithuanian State Security Department - not only in the region, but also globally. 


Informational warfare shifts from national governments to the black market - with the tools available, basically anybody can organize a disinformation campaign. Research concluded by Recorded Future suggests that “disinformation as a service” is publicly available on criminal forums, is highly customisable and costs from 15 to couple of thousand dollars.