Congressional negotiators on Wednesday approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread “fake news” and disinformation threaten U.S. national security. The measure, part of the National Defense Authorization Act approved by a conference committee, calls on the State Department to lead governmentwide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorization is for $160 million over two years.
The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.
Surprisingly, some of these leaders, particularly in Russia and China, have been wielding a sophisticated and deceptive soft power beyond their borders that is proving more enduring and effective than in the past. Their tactics are asymmetrical and subversive, using deception and disinformation, not easily confronted.
Jamala’s win and her powerful song about persecution and the abuse of Crimean Tatars has filled our hearts with pride and solidarity. It also reminds us that culture is a powerful instrument for building trust, understanding and peace.
Arguing that the United States has so far failed to invest seriously in understanding or pushing back against the problem of Russian propaganda and disinformation, Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Washington Post columnist, and Edward Lucas, a senior editor at the Economist, are launching this week a counter-disinformation initiative at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington, DC.
There is a growing anxiety among some observers in the EU that a disinformation strategy pursued by the Russian government since the Ukraine crisis might fragment and disintegrate the Union. It is claimed that Russia’s use of targeted disinformation is seeking to influence public opinion within the member states with the aim of paralysing decision-making processes at the EU level.
A new plan for countering propaganda has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, but how necessary is it?