Between July 6-7 The Atlantic Council and the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) hosted their Global Forum in Warsaw.

The event took place in the context of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Warsaw for the Three Seas Initiative Summit hosted by Poland.

As part of Global Forum, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab organized 360 Open Source Summit, the first summit dedicated to open source data analysis in order to identify Russian and anti-Western propaganda by studying information available in the public space.

The observations and trends noted by the CPD experts are as follows:

  • Independent journalist’s fight against fake news represents a major thesis – almost a new Western ideology – created and stimulated with the aim to protect pro-Western societies from Eastern propaganda. Combatting fake news becomes a major bet, but it exceeds the academic field as it is promoted beyond scientific measures and can reach the situation in which new sources are presented as either right or wrong, correct or incorrect, close or not to Russian propaganda.
  • “Independent Journalism” is underlined as a key element in protecting the CEE from Russian propaganda; Western investment in independent journalism could be an alternative to the press-trusts manipulated by Russian interests but also a society affected by propaganda.
  • Identifying Russian propaganda can be evaluated through a 4D lens, through the following elements: Dismiss (a method through which when one cannot answer a critique, one directly insults the source); Distort (if one does not like the existent data, one overthrows them and changes their meaning); Distract (if one is accused of something, one also accuses the accuser of the same thing); Dismay (if one party says something, one does in such a way to make it look worrying and disproportionate).
  • The methods of making “fact-checking” more interesting were explored, to be read/accessed and to have an impact on the public – a suggested solution: tapping into new technologies (multimedia) to present individual studies; not only raw data or cold information but authentic “narratives.” Humanizing individual studies which are essential for legitimacy.
  • Russian Propaganda – not only for promoting Russian and its image but also to distort and affect Western institutions and values; to generate chaos, to stimulate social distrust and decrease participation.
  • Sputnik and Russia Today – not news but propaganda; There are discussions regarding banning these channels in Western societies, following Macron’s model. Their acceptance in parallel with classical journalists – a risk for the misappropriation of agendas and the promotion of propaganda.
  • There are interesting studies concerning the need to raise social capital in Central and Eastern Europe (a problem of the whole region) as a solution of protection in the face of anti-Western propaganda effects but also to stimulate the participation in the region. The Prosperity Index (created this year –, Legatum Institute) identifies as causes of the fragility of democracies in Eastern Europe the absence of social capital, brain migration and lack of trust in Western institutions. Another interesting study presented – Stratcom CEPA regarding Russian propaganda.
  • Between Russian propaganda techniques – CEPA specialists highlighted the following: (1) “narrative laundering” – a technique which implies hiding the source of propaganda by laundering it through Western sources and then taking it back to Eastern Europe; (2) promoting “believable lies”, almost true stories, around some undeniable elements, but which invent stories that are no longer verified; (3) “Kremlin ping-pong” – a technique through which several sources share the same story between one another, adding a few new elements each time to endlessly roll the same lies (it is an efficient mechanism as it not only legitimizes the story but to a higher presence Google search).
  • It is important to understand the differences between two distinct momentsPodesta leaks which brought about the decrease in polls for the US candidate Hillary Clinton (constant, gradual leaks) vs Macron leaks which had place in one day, very close to the moment of the election and which were not effective due to the traditional press (which refused to intake the subject) and because of the Macron’s team reaction (which fed the leaks with other false, made-up stories meant to distort the attack). The first moment led to the release of news regarding the content of the leaks. The second moment led to news about how the leaks were enabled – decreasing them in this way. A solution suggested by the Western experts – focus on how news appears before talking about its content.
  • Digital Resilience – a promising concept which is promoted as a resistance solution to propaganda. The main initial trend in the context of subjects that appear as propaganda should be:
    • Identifying the source – what are the accounts that promoted the subject and rolled it the most (share, mentions, amplification);
    • Avoiding the temptation of talking about content – and promoting the information about how such stories appeared to begin with;
    • Preparing for new attacks of this type – by constantly monitoring those accounts that promote such stories and eventually reporting them to the source of the social networks;
    • Constantly updating the narratives list used in the news – with all new stories;
    • Using own narratives to explain the attacks and to discredit them.
  • The new, current Western society debate – open societies vs. closed societies. Promoting independent journalism and media literacy to cope with the new realities; The need to stimulate, through education – addressed to new generations – mechanisms of self-defense in front online manipulation and to discern between correct information and manipulation. Nowadays, with the emergence of new technologies and a new media consumption mechanism (dominated by the use of mobile phones, the Internet, open sources and new ways of interaction and content creation), the new generations do not have the defense mechanisms to battle propaganda and manipulation. The next years are filled with the challenge of regulating this field and most importantly to architect the emergence of these new tools.


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