Disinformation Resilience Index: who is strongest in the Baltics?

The Baltic States know what Kremlin propaganda is and how to react to it! This statement is often repeated in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia when we talk about information security. But for a long time, we don’t have the answer to another question: which of the Baltics is best prepared for this challenge? The research made by “EAST Centre” (Poland) and “Ukrainian PRISM” (Ukraine) allows to finally get the answer, Viktor Denisenko wrote on Lietuvos Žinios.

It should be mentioned, that research is not only about the Baltic States. Experts from different countries tried to figure out the Disinformation Resilience Index for all regions of Central and East Europe, including the so-called Visegrad countries and countries belonging to EU Eastern Partnership initiative. But information about Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia was presented first in the pilot presentation of the research in Tallinn on December 7th. All results and the full Index will be presented in spring 2018.

So, what about the Baltic States? As explained by the creators of the index, “the index of resilience to disinformation is composed of three subindexes, which are calculated based on several variables in each”. These subindexes are – population exposure to Kremlin-backed propaganda; quality of system responses; vulnerability to digital warfare. Let’s look to each of subindexes deeper.

In the category of population exposure to Kremlin-backed propaganda, Lithuania got 3 points (from 5), Latvia – 3.9 points, Estonia – 3.3 points. It should be mentioned that on this occasion the higher the worse.

In fact, Lithuania’s lead shows that groups potentially vulnerable to Kremlin-backed propaganda in the country are not as big as in Latvia and Estonia. For example, in Lithuania, national minorities are only near 14% of the population, when in Latvia just Russians are 25.6%. It doesn’t mean, that every representative of the Russian (or Russian-speakers) ethnic group should be viewed as a “victim of Kremlin-backed propaganda”, but these people are in a kind of “risk zone”.

Also in Lithuania, Kremlin-backed TV channels and Kremlin-connected internet media (as Sputnik) are not as popular. It leads to Lithuania being in the top on the third (vulnerability to digital warfare) subindex too. Here we have similar results: Lithuania – 2.8 points, Latvia – 3.6 points, Estonia – 3.6 points.

But in the second subindex the situation is a little bit different, in it the quality of system responses to Kremlin-backed propaganda from the state is evaluated. The best here is Estonia (2.6 points), Lithuania only in second place (3.1 points) and Latvia at the bottom of the index (3.6 points).

It is recognized that Lithuania has a good and fast reaction to propaganda’s attacks in the information sphere but often it is just reaction ad hoc. Also it was mentioned there is an unproductive competition between different institutions and departments of institutions, which are responsible for reaction to propaganda and have the aim to improve information security of the state. The coordination of these institutions activities should be better – as in Estonia. The researchers found that Tallinn managed this area of state responsibility better than Vilnius or Riga.

Latvia looks like “the weakest link” in the Disinformation Resilience Index. After research, it was concluded that the country should, first of all, improve the capacity and authority of supervising institutions and also improve the regulation of the media sphere.

Of course, there are no magic recipes how to defend the information and public spheres from propaganda’s attacks and from information warfare in general. There are just some well-known measures to try to improve the “information immunity” of society. First of all, it is attention to media literacy, support of quality media, social dialogue with different groups of society and deconstruction of propaganda narratives. But these are just tools. The main point of the Disinformation Resilience Index today and in the future is to answer, how successful different countries are using these tools and what they should improve on or start using.

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