Diplomacy dies in darkness: Europe and information manipulation

Diplomacy dies in darkness: Europe and information manipulation

“Information manipulation” or just plain “fake news”? How France is grappling with a very modern threat Whether it is the refugee crisis, Catalonia, or last year’s French and German elections, most European leaders have had to confront the manipulation of information that is central to the post-truth world we now inhabit. France has been especially

“Information manipulation” or just plain “fake news”? How France is grappling with a very modern threat

Whether it is the refugee crisis, Catalonia, or last year’s French and German elections, most European leaders have had to confront the manipulation of information that is central to the post-truth world we now inhabit.

France has been especially active on this front, from Emmanuel Macron branding RT and Sputnik “lying propaganda organs” in the very presence of Vladimir Putin to a bill aiming to repress disinformation (later rebranded as “information manipulation”) which proved so controversial and ambiguous that the Senate has blocked it. Government ministries have also stepped in: in April the foreign ministry organised a big conference which the foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian himself addressed (and this was itself a thematic follow-up to the recent French strategy on digital). Now, the foreign ministry’s policy planning, CAPS, and the in-house defence ministry think-tank, IRSEM, have jointly authored an analytical report which they informally released at the French ambassadors’ conference, and then publicly launched at a conference opened by defence minister Florence Parly.

All this would not be so bad if European societies did not provide a fertile ground, in particular due to a crisis of trust in elites, political communication, media, and experts

The report defines the problem of information manipulation as “the intentional and massive dissemination of false or biased news for hostile political purposes” (stressing that parts of this are nothing new). It focuses on manipulation that is both external interference and state-led (it does not cover domestic manipulation). The report dismisses the vague and controversial notion of “fake news” in favour of the more precise term “information manipulation”. It defines this as the newest dimension of an existing phenomenon, noting that “the unprecedented capacity of the internet and social networks to diffuse information and render it viral threatens democracies and the sovereignty of their institutions”.

The report issues no fewer than 50 recommendations for states, private businesses (including media and digital platforms), and civil society. But its seven overarching recommendations are as follows:

Define and clearly distinguish the terminology
Do not underestimate the threat
See beyond the short term
Strengthen the resilience of our societies
Do not surrender the internet to extremists
Do not yield to the temptation of counter-propaganda
Do not rely on “technological solutionism” because the response to a multidimensional issue can only be a multidimensional solution

One of the most interesting parts of the report is the final, look-ahead, section, which points to four trends:

Kinetisation: communications infrastructure will be physically targeted more often (such as cables to Crimea cut during the military phase of the annexation), especially underwater and in space
Personalisation: at a massive scale (such as text messages sent via mobile phones to adversaries in Ukraine; targeting via social networks; false information introduced into real and legitimate campaigns such as the Panama Papers or the #MeToo campaign)
Mainstreamisation: relying less exclusively on obvious agents such as RT and Sputnik, and more actively on less obvious ones
Proxy-isation: targeting easier-to-penetrate areas such as Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and north Africa, which then become proxies with a view to targeting Europe and America (including via migrant communities)

Surprisingly enough, RT and Sputnik have given considerable coverage to the release and content of the report. But other newspapers, such as Le Monde and Libération, have also covered the report, and criticised its almost exclusive focus on Russian activities.

Manipulation is not merely the dissemination of false information. Its objective is to create confusion, to delegitimise possible actions by challenging data, and to divide by complicating both diplomacy and action at a national level. But the issue is not just about fighting against manipulation and manipulators. How to fight gullibility and relativism also deserves attention, especially on foreign policy which has for too long remained an elite game. Of course, all this would not be so bad if European societies did not provide a fertile ground, in particular due to a crisis of trust in elites, political communication, media, and experts. This report recognises this, and consequently insists on increasing “resilience” as a solution.

The battle against information manipulation will continue to be a priority for the foreign policy of many European states. In its upcoming presidency of the G7 in 2019, France currently plans to emphasise journalist protection, engagement with civil society, and getting platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to cooperate with states. Both Macron and Theresa May committed to a similar type of cooperation last year with a view to developing tools with tech companies to stop online extremism.

Eventually, information manipulation could become a topic for the group of “goodwill powers”, which should support international cooperation more actively, as suggested by Le Drian in a recent interview. His German counterpart, Heiko Maas, also suggested an alliance of multilateralist powers last summer, and made exposing fake news a prerequisite for such an alliance. Maas rather pointed to disinformation coming from the other side of the Atlantic, whether on trade or on the Iran deal. But both agree that it is possible to pursue the right policy – and to establish it at the multilateral level – only if we agree on the facts rather than manipulate them in the first place.

Read more on: View from the Capitals,European Power,European Strategy,Digital Power

Please follow and like us:

RSS BIDD

  • Found on the Web: U.S. Declares War On Germany 18th Feb 2019
    Erik Sass, Mental Floss, April 4, 2017; original article contains additional illustrations; see also article on Creel and WWI propaganda in Excerpt: [I]n the speech’s climactic passage, Wilson laid his request before Congress: With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities […]
  • UK would face “formidable challenge” to replicate Erasmus programs 18th Feb 2019
    Kerrie Kennedy, thepienews.com, Feb 18 2019 Image from article: The Committee urged the UK and the EU to work together to avoid any disruption to Erasmus+ placements in the event of a no-deal scenario. Photo: Wikicommons/ Dave Kellam. The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has called on the UK government to clarify its […]
  • Trump’s Venezuela policy: Cubans to the Left, Cubans to the Right 18th Feb 2019
    John Feeley, univision.com; John Feeley was US Ambassador to Panama and is a Univision political analyst. Image from article: President Trump signing a new Cuba policy order in Miami, June 16, 2017. Left to right: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio, Vice President Mike Pence. […]
  • ‘Covering the White House and the World’ coming to VOA Museum 18th Feb 2019
    cincinnati.com Image from article: Steve Herman, VOA White House Bureau Chief. Steve Herman is a native Cincinnatian and attended elementary school here, but he’s traveled the world throughout his journalism career. Now the White House bureau chief for the Voice of America in Washington, D.C., Herman will speak on “Covering the White House and the […]
  • Cultural Diplomacy conference to be held in Abu Dhabi on February 27 18th Feb 2019
    Afkar Abdullah, khaleejtimes.com February 18 Image from article, with caption: Dr Kamel Al Mu'aini, president of the International Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (IIDC)-Photo by M. Sajjad/ Khaleej Times The conference will focus on how the media affect the cultures of the people. The International Institute for Cultural Diplomacy announced on February 18 that it will […]

RSS Diplo Portal Belgrade

  • Представление программы бесплатного обучения в России 15th Feb 2019
    В Русском доме 13 февраля прошла презентация программы получения бесплатного высшего образования в вузах Российской Федерации. Потенциальные кандидаты смогли получить подробную информацию о условиях ежегодного конкурса на получение стипендий для бесплатного образования в России в рамках выделенных для граждан Сербии квот, который РЦНК проводит в январе-марте, а также информацию о том, как необходимо подавать документы, […]
  • Представљање програма бесплатног студирања у Русији 15th Feb 2019
    У Руском дому је 13. фебруара одржана презентација о програмима добијања бесплатног високог образовања на универзитетима Руске Федерације. Потенцијални кандидати су могли да добију детаљну информацију о условима годишњег конкурса за добијање стипендија за бесплатно образовање у Русији у оквиру квота, које су издвојене за српске држављане. Конкурс организује РЦНК од јануара до марта. Кандидати […]
  • Сербские старшеклассники в гостях у Русского Дома 15th Feb 2019
    13 февраля РЦНК Общество русско-сербско-белорусской дружбы из г.Смедерево организовало посещение РЦНК для группы старшеклассников и их преподавателей из г.Смедерево и г.Велика Плана. Для учеников это был первое знакомство с Русским Домом. Сотрудники РЦНК провели ознакомительную экскурсию и рассказали о истории создания и работе центра. В рамках визита сербские школьники смогли посетить открывшуюся в РЦНК выставку […]

Most Viewed Posts

  • Twitter Suspends Hamas Accounts (1,361)
    By ROBERT MACKEYLast Updated, Sunday, Jan. 19 | Several Twitter accounts used by the military wing of Hamas have been suspended by the social network in recent days, angering the Islamist militants and delighting Israel’s military. #Twitter has suspended the official account of #Hamas, a terrorist group that uses social media to threaten #Israel http://t.co/g1UxKc9fpf
  • Humanitarian Intervention: Advantages and Disadvantages in East Timor and Kosovo (392)
    Have There Been Occasions on Which the Advantages of Humanitarian Intervention Using Armed Force have Outweighed the Disadvantages? Humanitarian intervention can be defined as the attempts of a foreign state to prevent violations of human rights in another state, often through the use of armed force. The use of armed force to protect human rights,
  • Brain drain in Serbia today (390)
    How does the Serbian government cope with the problem of brain drain today? The latest OECD publication, SOPEMI 2014 shows that 39 thousand persons emigrated in 2012 from Serbia to OECD countries only. (At the beginning of the global economic and financial crisis, the emigration from Serbia to OECD countries amounted to 27,000 in 2008.)

How Belgrade based diplomats use Digital Diplomacy and Internet 2016

Diplo Portal Belgrade

Please follow and like us:
Scroll Up

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)