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SEPTEMBER 2020

NATO Ramps Up Propaganda Infrastructure Under Pretext Of Fighting “Russian Disinformation”

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NATO Ramps Up Propaganda Infrastructure Under Pretext Of Fighting "Russian Disinformation"

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The NATO-EU is expanding its propaganda infrastructure.

Since 2015, the EU has financed and operated the East StratCom Task Force. Its primary purpose is to combat “address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns.”

The decision was made on March 19-20th 2015, and by June there was a plan outlined for the task force to start operating and has done so since, with apparently successful results, judging by the constant expansion of its endeavors.

“The European Council stressed the need to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns and invited the High Representative, in cooperation with Member States and EU institutions, to prepare by June an action plan on strategic communication. The establishment of a communication team is a first step in this regard,” the EU decision read. [pdf]

Later in the same year, in November, EU East StratCom Task Force was established, and with a presentation to boot, which unironically resembles a high school project. [pdf]

NATO Ramps Up Propaganda Infrastructure Under Pretext Of Fighting "Russian Disinformation"

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The Task Force has three main objectives:

  • Effective communication and promotion of EU policies towards the Eastern Neighbourhood;
  • Strengthening of the overall media environment in the Eastern Neighbourhood and in EU Member States;
  • Improved EU capacity to forecast, address and respond to disinformation activities by external actors.

All of this doesn’t mention Russia, but it is entirely focused on Russian disinformation attempts.

Each of these main objectives has tools to achieve the required results, mostly focused on educating others about media literacy, “myth busting,” and there appears to be a heavy focus on “content development,” which is essentially disinformation, but from “the good guys.”

The most challenging point appears to be the coordination with all countries in Eastern Europe on regulatory issues, since even 4 years later there appears to be little difference.

And, indeed, judging by the Twitter accounts operated by the EU East StratCom Task Force the programmes are going amazing, and are receiving more and more funding, but there, quite frankly, appears to be little result. It could be due to the entire narrative being mostly made-up, but that’s beside the point.

But, according to official EU statistics, “Russian disinformation” efforts are ramping up, with 998 cases registered between January and October 2019, compared to only 434 in the same period in 2018.

The current budget of the EU East StratCom Task Force is EUR1.1 million, with it expected to get steadily increased in future years. There are calls to increase the staff and funding of the endeavor, up to EUR5 million.

The most recent member of the team against “Russian disinformation” is Georgia, which just months earlier had protests which were filled with anti-Russian hysteria and propaganda, with both the government and opposition blaming each other of being Russian puppets.

But, still, the Georgian government, doesn’t “fight propaganda with propaganda, but with fact-based and positive communication,” said Natia Mezvrishvili, Head of Administration of the government in Georgia at a disinformation conference that took place between November 18-22nd in Tbilisi.

Naturally, no fight against “Russian disinformation” can happen without the US playing a part in it in an attempt to unravel the “true facts.”

And, if one would make the terrible mistake of considering that these disinformation attempts are only a political play, they’re not – they also relate to religion.

And, until recently, the EU and NATO had little interest in Georgia, since it had closer relations to Russia. But, now, Russia is hard at work on spreading “disinformation.” Or as the Task Force called it a “disinfo virus” to “attack Georgia’s democracy, territorial integrity, its transatlantic and European course.”

There’s even a well-made guide on making a disinformation video, so if the Russian “disinformation agents” are carefully looking, they can get some pointers to make their efforts that much better.

Separately, on November 12th, the Stanford Internet Observatory published a white paper on “GRU Online Operations Puts Spotlight on Pseudo-Think Tanks and Personas.”

The authors would likely wish it was an objective and independent research, but it was on the order and with the financing of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

To make it even more suspect, the research began with a data set consisting of social media posts provided to the Committee by Facebook itself.

Thus, there is absolutely nothing independent or open source in the research – it was information that was “spoon fed” to the researchers.

The key takeaways that the analysis found are the following:

  • The GRU partakes in “traditional narrative laundering operations updated for the internet age”;
  • the emergence of a two-pronged approach: narrative and memetic propaganda by different entities belonging to a single state actor;
  • A deeper understanding of hack-and-leak operations. GRU hack-and-leak operations are well known. This tactic — which has been described in detail in the Mueller Report (which established and proved nothing at all) — had a particularly remarkable impact on the 2016 U.S. Election, but the GRU conducted other hack-and-leak operations between 2014 and 2019 as well;

The operations that are investigated are the following:

  • Inside Syria Media Center (ISMC), a media entity that was created as part of the Russian government’s multifarious influence operation in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad;
  • APT-28, also known as Fancy Bear, is a cyber-espionage group identified by the Special Counsel Investigation as GRU Units 26165 and 74455;
  • CyberBerkut, Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Ukraine, and “For an Exit from Ukraine,” a network of Pages targeting Ukraine, which has been subject to an aggressive disinformation campaign by the Russian government since the Euromaidan revolution in 2014;

The information provided by Facebook, which was not scrutinized whatsoever, the white paper shows and assumes that many allegations and unsubstantiated accusations as fact outline a “ large, multifaceted operation set up with the aim of artificially boosting narratives favorable to the Russian state and disparaging Russia’s rivals.”

“Over a period when Russia was engaged in a wide range of geopolitical and cultural conflicts, including Ukraine, MH17, Syria, the Skripal Affair, the Olympics ban, and NATO expansion, the GRU turned to active measures to try to make the narrative playing field more favorable. These active measures included social-media tactics that were repetitively deployed but seldom successful when executed by the GRU.”

Regardless, it turns out that the GRU are so bad at their operations that they’re almost never successful as per the researchers.

There is also a graphic presenting the disinformation network that the information provided by Facebook assists in establishing. After all, it should be reminded that Facebook banned a Russian page sharing Russian cuisine recipes as part of a disinformation campaign.

NATO Ramps Up Propaganda Infrastructure Under Pretext Of Fighting "Russian Disinformation"

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