Ukrainian Experience to Secure The World

A new research book entitled «Words and Wars. Ukraine facing Kremlin propaganda» was presented in Strasbourg and Brussels at the beginning of the year. It is an analytical publication concerning Ukrainian experience of dealing with Russian propaganda and information warfare. It also describes the methods of creating and disseminating fake news using fake photo/video materials on the TV, falsifying «Wikipedia» and, moreover, launching cyber attacks on Ukrainian state institutions. The authors appeal to the international community to cooperate on such an issue and take the necessary measures globally.

Thus, the book became a so-called encyclopedia of the methods of Kremlin propaganda, its traps and recommendations for the world how to fight it.

There were three main stages of information aggression – said former Deputy Minister of Information policy of Ukraine Tetiana Popova, a strategic communications expert in NGO «Information Security».

The first one could be seen when Russian media could freely disseminate fake news in the Internet (f.e. using the same video materials about Iraq or Chechnya pretending them to be episodes of the bombing of Slovyansk, then Makiivka and Donetsk).

She called the next stage «a fiction story» (stories about «crucified boy», «snowbirds«, «raped grandmothers«). Such fakes are harder to debunk, according to Ms. Popova.

The third stage is usage of mistakes made by European and Ukrainian governments in propagandist purposes.

The authors of «Words and Wars» expose the following key messages:

• Russian propaganda has deep roots, which can be traced back to at least Soviet times. «Post-truth» strategies are not the invention of the Putin era.

• The goal of today’s Russian propaganda is not to provide its own narrative but also to weaken existing democratic narratives of Western societies. Being unable to suggest its own new grand narrative, it tries to show that Western narratives are unsustainable.

• The problem of Russian propaganda is wider than that of «fake news». Studying fakes is an important part of this book too; however, its argument is that Russian propaganda goes further than fake news, and that it uses a specific discourse which has a clear semi-militarist tonality and is aimed at winning a war.

Besides describing the methods the Kremlin uses in the information warfare it has provoked and Ukrainian experience in dealing with it, the book also provides recommendations how to fight Russian propaganda both to Ukraine and the international community. For example, it recommends to:

  • Acknowledge that the problem of propaganda and disinformation is a threat to security, both national and civilian.

  • Open a debate among stakeholders on ways to respond to security threats without restricting genuine freedom of speech.

  • Develop maps of dissemination of propaganda messages in each particular state and find out alternative forms of response to them.

  • Develop civic initiatives on counteracting propaganda.

  • Better integrate Ukrainian and international reporting communities, through forums, meetings, informal networks. Create an international expert network.

  • Monitor social networks and sanction accounts propagating hate speech or spreading fakes.

  • Study Russian «soft power» initiatives, including NGOs, think tanks, communities, religious organizations, which can prepare the ground for «active measures». Study experiences in Donbas and Crimea in 2000-2013, prior to annexation and war.

  • Compare the messages of Russian propaganda with the reality on the ground, including in the annexed/occupied territories of Crimea, Donbas, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, etc.

  • Remember that Russia often uses opportunities provided by democratic states in its fight against democracy; develop stricter legislative provisions which would make it harder, for example, to register propaganda channels in Europe or as media outlets.

  • Recognize that workers of Russian propaganda outlets are not journalists, therefore avoid applying principles and practices to them that are applied to journalists (accreditation, etc.).

  • Monitor support from Russia for specific political forces, especially during election campaigns (Front National, AfD, etc.).

  • Introduce legal responsibility for sharing fake information.

  • Introduce personal sanctions against key authors of Russian propaganda (many of them have assets in the West).

  • Create a network of international experts dealing with propaganda.

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