Director of Investigations for the Center for Information Resilience, Benjamin Strick has said that Russian disinformation in Europe is quite cutting edge.
In an interview with TheGeopost, Strick stated that the media supported by the Kremlin are promoting dangerous narratives.
“Disinformation in Europe is obviously quite cutting edge, given that it’s so close to the conflict in Ukraine, so we’re seeing that kind of disinformation,” Strick said.
He emphasizes that Russian propaganda is aimed at the content of denials about human rights violations.
“If we look at the priority, which is what’s happening in Ukraine, we’re seeing Russian propaganda targeting two main things that we’ve seen, the first is around the content of denials about human rights violations,” he points out.
Strick adds that Russia drives the narrative to stop funding Ukraine.
“In the European context, however, we are seeing that Russia is leading the narratives to stop funding Ukraine, so for example European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, France, but also Great Britain, are countries that finance or provide support to Ukraine, either through weapons, financial systems and things like that,” Strick adds.
In the end, he says that Russian aggression in Ukraine has caused a lot of fatigue in newsrooms.
“The conflict in Ukraine has caused a lot of fatigue in newsrooms, journalists are tired, they’re worn out from verifying information, they’re worn out from reporting on what is a 24/7 news cycle, but now they are actually bonding groups together and saying, rather than having separate Ukraine or separate Europe watch teams, let’s have a whole watch team, let’s bond all those resources together”, he concludes.
The Geopost: What is your opinion about Russian propaganda and the war in Ukraine?
It is really interesting, and I think it’s multifold. So, we’ve got Russian propaganda, we’ve seen this in EU and UK space, then we are also seeing it in Ukraine, and I think it’s good to separate those two a bit, to show how they are different? So, first of all, if we look at the priority, which is what is happening in Ukraine, we are seeing Russian propaganda aimed at two main things that we have seen, first is around the denials content around human rights abuses.
So, say for example, when Russia leaves specific area that is occupied for a while, we’ll see Russia, or specifically the Kremlin come out to undermine that evidence, to claim that video is a fake, photo is a fake.
Photo is essentially used as evidence of human rights abuses. The second what we see that in Ukraine is around Russia attempting to drive a wedge in between civilians and government, so, for example by claiming, why you supporting the government when you going to have a really cold winter, why are you supporting the government when actually, look at what Russia is like and look at what life is like under Russian occupation, it’s lovely in Kherson and so on, very much different to what we are really seeing on the ground, which is not that kind of nice life on the Russian occupation.
In the European context, however, we are seeing Russia drive narratives to stop the funding towards Ukraine, so for example European countries such as, Germany, Netherlands, France, but also the UK, and these are countries that are funding or providing support to Ukraine, weather be through arms, financial systems and things like that. We are seeing Russia trying to drive a wedge between civilians in those countries and those governments.
For example in UK, some of the Russian disinformation or propaganda that we are seeing is attempting to claim, for example, why would the UK government support a conflict when people at home cannot afford fuel prices or power prices? So, the people in the UK are obviously getting annoyed about that by saying, well, actually maybe Russia is right, why is the UK government supporting the Ukraine war, when at home we are unable to afford bread, milk, fuel and power and we are going to have a very cold winter. So this is the element that Russia is trying to play on in the EU context, very similar, but also quite different to what we are seeing in Ukraine as well.
The Geopost: What can EU states do to fight this propaganda?
Countering the disinformation is very important, you can’t just stop it, so for example we’ve seen EU obviously ban RT, UK has banned Russia Today, the state broadcasting outlet, and that’s been important move, but it is not stopping the flow of information, we are seeing that through Russian Telegram group, other agencies within the UK and EU also promoting that content.
I think there are ways to actually show the real side of the conflict in Ukraine, through the EU government and the UK government, to show what is really happening on the ground and why are those countries supporting the conflict in Ukraine, why are those countries providing aid.
One country has invaded another; we need to support that country in defense of its sovereign territory, that’s why we are supporting them, that’s why perhaps there might be higher gas prices, because one country is holding gas hostage, essentially. So these sort of things are important to counter by showing the facts, by showing the real story, rather than letting that propaganda really sink in.
The Geopost: What are the differences of disinformation here in Europe and in Australia?
Disinformation in Europe obviously is quite cutting edge being that is so close to the conflict in Ukraine, so we are seeing that sort of disinformation. In Australia is separate, because Australia is actually quite similar to the US with Russian narratives,
In the US and Australia we see the kind of narrative playing out, where the Kremlin is promoting this narrative and state media proxies of Russian government are promoting this narrative that the Ukraine conflict is so far away from Australia, it’s so far away from the US, it has nothing to do with the people living in America or Australia whatsoever, so why are we funding it, why we sending money this way, why should our people suffer when we sending that money, that’s what’s actually playing out, and there is really interesting aspect, because as an international community.
Everyone needs to stand with Ukraine, behind Ukraine or support a country in its territorial sovereignty, and we’ve seen that in past conflicts as well, where Russia has moved in, occupied an area or invaded a specific country.
That country needs defending, and in this time we haven’t really done too well before, we haven’t defended those countries sovereignties before, but at this time, for Ukraine, perhaps it’s the right choice for the international community to step up, whether it’s UK, whether it’s Australia, whether It’s US or whether it’s other countries in the UN General Assembly, for example south-east Asia, India, African countries as well that need to support UN General Assembly and Ukraine as well.
The Geopost: Your message to the journalists and media?
My messages for journalists and media is to work together, we’ve seen a number of different journalists and media organizations in certain parts of the EU and in certain parts of the world bond together and this is the first time we’ve really actually seen that as well.
The Ukraine conflict has caused a lot of fatigue in news rooms, journalists are tired, they are burnt out from verifying information, they are burnt out from reporting on what is 24/7 news cycle, but now they are actually bonding groups together and saying, rather than having separate Ukraine or separate Europe watch teams, let’s have a whole watch team, let’s bond all those resources together and maybe if we have a big problem, we can break it apart and work on by side solutions at each time.
I think that’s what journalists need to do, no more competitiveness, but rather collaboration, because the problem is bigger than just one organization, but together maybe we can solve it. /The Geopost/