Combatting Russian Disinformation

“I commend Legatum and all those who have sought to assemble evidence of the impact and
the effect. I think it has added to the report the ISC has produced.”

-Former UK Security Minister, James Brokenshire MP.

A commentary for the Archive,Empowered People programme

Published 30 Mar 2022

Russian disinformation has been a key topic of discussion during the conflict with Ukraine.

  • Deepfake images used by Russia to sow confusion have had high profile reportage in the West as a testament to the tactics being deployed by the Kremlin.

Over the last decade, the Legatum Institute has put forward a series of recommendations that today’s policymakers should look to implement in the region – not just in Russia but in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and other affected states.

These measures will put in place practices that can allow an international effort to be harnessed to stop the spread of Putin’s false narratives.

Legatum Institute publications on state-sponsored disinformation campaigns:

Winning the Information War: Counterstrategies to Russian propaganda (August 2016)

Cyber Propaganda: From how to start a revolution to how to beat ISIS (November 2015)

Information at War: From China’s Three Warfares to NATO’s Narratives (September 2015)

“Bringing the Rebels” European Far-Right Soldiers of Russian Propaganda (September 2015)

The New Authoritarians: Ruling Through Disinformation (June 2015)

Russia: A postmodern dictatorship? (October 2013)

Five Traps for Putin (March 2013)

REPORT: Winning the Information War:

Produced by the Legatum Institute in August 2016 in partnership with Center for European Foreign Policy Analysis.

Authors: Edward Lucas and Peter Pomeranzev

  • Problem: Non-EU frontline states have weak or inexperienced regulators to combat disinformation.

Solution: An international commission under the auspices of the Council of

Europe on the lines of the Venice Commission—which monitors adherence to the rule of law and democratic standards—could advise fledgling regulators, ensuring their independence and help communicate their decisions, and act as a broadcasting badge of quality. If an official body cannot be created, then an NGO could play a similar advisory role.

  • Problem: Kremlin disinformation is often effective and has no counter mechanism.

Solution: A counterpart to organizations such as Global Witness, Transparency International and the OCCRP could investigate Russian (and other) disinformation and hybrid campaigns and myth-bust for key audiences who are receptive to fact-based argument. It could use technology to automate fact-checking and troll-busting, educate media professionals and provide “disinformation ratings” to call out those media outlets which have fallen victim to (or collude in) Russian propaganda attacks.

  • Problem: Kremlin narrative construction hinges on moments of collective trauma and national significance.

Solution: A working group of psychologists, historians, sociologists and media specialists should create an “ideas factory” to develop ways of approaching historical and psychological trauma and highlighting other narratives.

  • Problem: Fragmented media landscape

Solution: Create a strong, independent public broadcaster that could grow to be the most trusted medium available, not only setting journalistic standards but also engaging in social and civic issues on the lines of Ukrainian broadcaster Hromadske

  • Problem: Russian State produced TV is seen to be more entertaining than independent alternatives.

Solution: Britain’s Foreign Office has previously commissioned the BBC to develop a blueprint for a “content factory” to help EU Association and Baltic countries create new Russian-language entertainment programming which can satisfy the needs of the Russian speaking populations.

  • Problem: Media literacy and audience recognition of bias are less developed than in the West.

Solution: Educating media consumers to spot disinformation is an important long-term priority. Pilot projects in Ukraine, notably by IREX, have broken new ground both in the techniques used, and in reaching beyond academic environments. Future media-literacy projects should use both online and broadcast media channel

REPORT: Russia: A Postmodern Dictatorship?

Produced by the Legatum Institute in October 2013 in partnership with the Institute of Modern Russia.

Author: Peter Pomerantsev

  • Problem: Russia is a member of many international organisations but fails to fulfil the pledges it made:

Solution: Conditionality also needs to be built into Russian membership of international organisations. Russia has signed up to pledges, including the promise to fight corruption, which it needs to make good on. Russia is a member of GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body: though now underused, with institutional strengthening it could have impact.

In the past, human rights campaigns succeeded by forcing governments to obey their own human rights laws, and to observe the international treaties they had already signed. NGOs should now be encouraged to refer to Russia’s legal obligations and apply the same pressure.