“People who behave like Goebbels today have a powerful capacity”

“People who behave like Goebbels today have a powerful capacity”

The war in Ukraine is not fought on the battlefield but also on the Internet. This is the conclusion drawn by the European Commission, which has been analyzing the threats of disinformation and interference from foreign powers, especially Russia and China, in Western democracies since 2015. In total, the foreign action services, where there is an office dedicated specifically to this matter, have detected 15,000 cases in the last eight years of manipulation or misinformation that affect the community territory. “Goebbels already invented it in World War II, lying and spreading misinformation is not new. The new thing is the intensity, the will and the instruments. Goebbels did not have the Internet or social networking tools, but today, people who behave like Goebbels, telling a lie 1,000 times, have a powerful capacity to multiply and reach anyone anywhere”, reflected the senior representative of the EU, Josep Borrell, in an act organized by his department on the threats of foreign manipulation of information.

Borrell announces a “mechanism to sanction bad actors who disinform” in the EU


“Russia has invested in disinformation and manipulation as an industry. They have invested massively; much more than what we invest in fighting disinformation”, explained the head of European diplomacy, who has warned that Vladimir Putin is using manipulation and disinformation as “another weapon” in the framework of a battle of the story that He considers, however, that it is not new but that it increased during the pandemic. Borrell has said that he is a victim of first-person attacks.

“We have to take this very seriously,” said Borrell, who took advantage of the event to announce the launch of a center for the analysis and exchange of information on foreign interference. It is not the first tool that the EU has launched to try to combat this phenomenon, which is also being analyzed by the European Parliament. For years there has been a strategic communication division within the foreign action service that tries to counter disinformation. In fact, that unit is the one that has prepared the report [en inglés] presented by the vice-president of the Commission this Tuesday.

This unit is the one that has detected “numerous evidence” about foreign attacks on the EU and that it has quantified at 15,000 to “distract attention”, according to Borrell. Among the examples he has given, are the accusations that Ukraine uses forces Nazi paramilitaries. “Russia says that there is a Nazi army attacking people,” said the head of diplomacy, who recalled that it is that country that is “bombing” schools or hospitals. “It is false and we know it but not everyone knows it”, he has warned. He has also mentioned the propaganda of the Russian government against the training mission for Ukrainian soldiers that the EU has sponsored and for which Russia has accused the 17 of being in the service of NATO.

The conclusions of the foreign action service report establish that there are “new techniques” to spread disinformation through the manipulation of images or videos as well as the creation of false web pages. The document analyzes one hundred cases of interference, manipulation or misinformation that occurred between October 1 and December 5, 2022. Of these, Russia was involved in 88 and China was involved in 17 -five of them in line with the Kremlin- .

“In the case of incidents related to Russia, 42% were intended to distract. The vast majority had to do with the Russian invasion of Ukraine to draw attention to different actors to blame (Ukraine and the EU). Another 35% had the objective of distorting, twisting and framing the narratives about the invasion of Ukraine”, says the report, which in the case of China attributes 56% of the attempts to distract: “The Chinese incidents used the promotion of China as a trusted partner and world leader while demeaning the West, noting especially that the US allegedly destabilizes the EU.”

The concern of the allies is not only for the public opinions of their countries but for the incidence that Russia may have in third countries, for example in Africa. That is why it intends to strengthen its capacities. “We have to understand how these campaigns are organized,” said Borrell, who believes that more analysis is necessary on social networks. And there he has taken the opportunity to give a new warning to Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, for his claim to restrict access to these tools. “We need more transparency and accountability, not less,” he said before appealing to the tycoon to make sure he “complies with all the obligations” to which he has committed, referring to the new European digital laws.

“We have to win this battle,” Borrell concluded, reiterating that the Ukrainians are not only fighting Russian troops to maintain their sovereignty and defend their territorial integrity, but also to preserve common “values”: “They are fighting for us ”.

Report of the foreign service of the EU on misinformation and foreign interference. by Irene Castro on Scribd


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