This week, the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV) and the European Commission organized a conference on strategies to counter disinformation and foreign information manipulation. These workshops were an opportunity to share the expertise of European Union (EU) member states in order to fight disinformation in the public sector. Aims of the conference were within the framework of the TAIEX initiative.*
The event specifically supported Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia – all of which are currently under a Russian disinformation attack – in identifying and combating false information. Experts from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the European Commission, and NATO shared their experiences and best practices in combating such intrusions to truth.
In light of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, it is again pertinent to bring disinformation to the forefront and discuss the detection and prevention of Russian propaganda. In the workshops, experts shared case studies and lessons learned from their home countries. In total, nine experts from all represented countries participated.
“Russia has been particularly active in spreading false and misleading information during the war. The same techniques are often used in several countries, so exchanging knowledge with other nations benefits everyone. It strengthens the resilience of our shared information space,” said Eva-Maria Liimets, Head of Strategy for ESTDEV’s Eastern Partnership Department and an organizer of the conference.
Dana Spinant, Deputy Chief Spokesperson for the European Commission, emphasized the multifaceted nature of disinformation prevention in her opening remarks. She also highlighted that debunking false facts, proactively communicating our own narrative, and improving media literacy are key ways we can counter Kremlin propaganda.
Among other high-ranking officials and experts stood Krisztina Stump, Head of Unit of the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content, and Technology (DG CNET) at the European Commission. Ms Stump – being one of the developers of the current European framework to combat disinformation – presented the framework and guidelines for tackling disinformation and enhancing strategic communication at the EU level.
Estonia itself has strong knowledge and invaluable experience in preventing false information and combating information manipulation coming from Russia. This expertise was shared by Priit Talv and Urve Eslas, from the Strategic Communication Department of the Government Office.
One of the cornerstones of a society resistant to malign influence is good media literacy. Estonia currently ranks fourth in the world in the media literacy index, with Finland, Norway, and Denmark each ahead of us respectively. Fact-checking, debunking false claims, and decisively sharing the truth are the primary steps anyone can take to stop hostile misinformation from spreading.
*TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange) is the instrument of the European Commission that supports public sector institutions in harmonizing, applying, and enforcing EU legislation, and mediates the sharing of best practices among EU member states.
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Estonian Centre for International Development is a government foundation that manages and implements Estonia’s participation in international development cooperation and humanitarian aid projects, with the aim of increasing Estonia’s contribution to global security and sustainable development.