Sārts: Be on guard against disinformation

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Along with escalating the situation at the borders of Ukraine, Russia is implementing an information operation, which is also being echoed in Latvia, Jānis Sārts, Director of the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (STRATCOMCOE), told Latvian Radio February 17.

Sārts said that with the tense of the security situation, the amount of disinformation disseminated by Russia has grown significantly now that Russia has "switched on the full disinformation machinery".

"We see a lot of different disinformation stories both around the world and in the Russian-speaking environment, as well as in Latvia," said Sārts. 

According to the expert, the goals of the information operation are several, for example, to give the impression that the US and NATO are to blame for the tensions, to distract from the concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine's borders and focus on a message of a supposed threat to Russia, and to make sure that the West is not able to comprehend what is really going on.

"There are the questions about ordinary television channels. We've probably all at least heard of the famous shows on Russia's big channels, the way they present the situation. Then there's a whole big ecosystem with a variety of digital and regular sites distributing Russian disinformation in the western world. And of course, there are undoubtedly troll armies on social networks that are amplifying this news," said Sārts.

Sārts said that controlling any flow of information in democracies is difficult and perhaps unnecessary, but instead people need to be taught to recognize fictional messages.

"I would say that the greatest stress should be placed on people's ability to recognize disinformation or at least be skeptical of various statements. Because, as I said, Russia has turned on the full machinery," said Sārts.

We are unlikely to expect an environment that is free of Russian misinformation in the near future, Sārts admitted.

According to Sārts, despite the power of disinformation, it would be very difficult for Russia to explain to its public why "shooting and bombing" in Ukraine would be a good thing.


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