On June 30th we met four experts in the field of countering disinformation to discuss the wartime media trends in Central-Eastern Europe and their potential ramifications.
We had with us:
Here are the key takeaways from the discussion:
The prevailing disinformation narratives and themes currently being pushed in the CEE and Georgia are as follows (with different intensity varying from country to country):
o Anti-Ukrainian (e.g., claims of manipulated reports of victims and military successes, portrayed as Nazis, defaming president Zelensky, unacceptable behavior of the refugees, etc.);
o Anti-Western (e.g., mostly in Georgia: claims that the war was actually between the US and Russia and others are being forced to take part in it, the conflict is really between Poland and Russia as Poland is trying to regain its former territories);
o Pro-Russian (e.g., Russians as fighters against Nazism, protectors of inhabitants of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions; they’re not targeting the civilians and the causalities are caused by the Ukrainian military, etc.).
What we expect in the upcoming months in terms of disinformation media trends in the CEE is:
o An increased volume of disinformation content, now focusing on fueling internal tensions and conflicts (e.g., the economic crisis, inflation, gas prices, or cultural wars), which as a consequence should turn people's focus away from supporting Ukraine;
o False narratives spread through some brand-new communication channels (e.g., Telegram), since in most countries Russian media outlets were banned.
What can be done to alleviate the situation? There seems to be no silver bullet here, unfortunately. What we can do is simply make a continued and increased effort on many fronts, for instance:
o Cooperation and coordinated effort from the state officials, civil society representatives and the private sector;
o Putting pressure on social media platforms to take responsibility and join forces in the fight against disinformation;
o Investing in and supporting reliable media outlets;
o Civil society's pressure and focus on the importance of critical thinking skills, as one of the few effective, long-term measures in the fight against propaganda.
To watch the whole discussion, visit the Hive Mind Community YouTube channel.