Did Russia try to hack the EU elections? Ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections there were fears that a Russian disinformation campaign might try to influence the results. However, in the end, the European elections went relatively smoothly, certainly with nothing resembling the last-minute release of hacked e-mails designed to damage Emmanuel Macron during the 2017 French Presidential vote.

So, what’s the problem? Well, clearly the Kremlin has built up a significant capacity to cause mischief via its so-called “web brigades”. In the United States, the Mueller report recently detailed attempts by the Saint Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) to influence the 2016 US elections in favour of Donald Trump. The IRA allegedly deployed everything from “troll factories” of fake online Facebook and Twitter profiles to targeted advertisements promoting disinformation.

According to the European Commission, the Russian government spends over €1 billion a year on pro-Kremlin media. In comparison, the East Stratcom Task Force, an EU unit set up to counter Russian propaganda efforts, has a budget €3 million and a staff of 16 people.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by James asking how we can fight back against Russian internet trolls. He writes:

Image of a citizenThe Kremlin’s network of professional propaganda-spewing internet trolls is large. There are thousands of Russians who work full-time jobs, publishing social media updates, internet comments and blog posts specifically designed to form abhorrence for the USA, EU, NATO, CIA and Ukraine…

To get a response, we put James’ comment to Johannes Bahrke, Spokesperson for the Digital Economy and Society at the European Commission. How would he respond?

For another perspective, we also spoke to Sebastian Bay, Senior Expert at the Technical and Scientific Development Branch of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (an international military organisation that is NATO-accredited, but which is not part of the NATO Command Structure, nor subordinate to any other NATO entity). How would he respond?

How we can fight back against Russian internet trolls? Has the EU’s response to Russian propaganda efforts been effective so far? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Willrow Hood

54 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    We can’t completely stop Russian trolls, so we should invest in education for the next generation, in this way they will be “immunized” from these types of propaganda. Obviously we should do it also for this generation, but maybe for many people it’s too late.

  2. avatar

    What’s the point in calling everyone who’s not a progressive(regressive) libtard a “Russian troll”?
    This is just another attempt at suppressing the differing views. Very neo-bolshevik

    • avatar

      do you know that in USA it was officially confirmed that Russian interfered in the elections in 2016? Do you know that Trump is “innocent” just because they didn’t find enough proof about that? So maybe it was involved, maybe not, but the most important part is that it happened!
      Do you know that Putin needs a weak European union? Do you know that many parties in our Union are directly funded from Russia? Also here there are solid proof about it!
      I think you don’t know well 🤔

    • avatar

      suka-bliaaad😆 🤘Russia forever;)😁

    • avatar

      Russian Trolling is a thing. Now it’s being made a publicly known thing.
      Not sure why this hurts anybody’s feelings.

    • avatar

      Max – Because it’s an excuse to shut down critical voices.
      Do you want to live in a single-ideology system where everyone nods to authority?

  3. avatar

    We can start by keeping track of it more closely. And in a more public manner.

  4. avatar

    Don’t make Putin shut the gas tap… Don’t make Putin stop the wheat export to Europe…Unless you have an alternative within Eu boundaries… And no, it’s only trolling the trolls… They have no fingers in the Americans election cookie jar…

  5. avatar

    Let s be friend with Russia… And Russian government will take over

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Olivier, why is that a good option?

    • avatar

      I think that EU position against Russia is unfair and economically stupid…. Improvement of EU Russian relations could solve many problems. I feel closer to Russians than to USA who is secretly trying to destroy EU

    • avatar

      “fairness” and economic matters aside, we do have a very serious issue of national defense to worry about. Vlad has already tried to interfere with electoral politics in Germany, France, UK, Holland, and Italy. We need to either defend our countries, or end up as weak puppets for the rest of eternity.

    • avatar

      Russia is a country that has invaded and annexed areas of 2 adjoining countries (Georgia & ukraine)..aided and abetted in the shooting down a civilian aircraft killing hundreds, complicit in the indiscriminate bombing & gassing of thousands in Syria…fostered continued civil strife in eastern Ukraine…..a state that stifles debate and any opposition, resorting to extrajudicial muders both at home and abroad.
      Russian trolls frankly are the least of the issues with this pariah state.
      Tighten all the economic screws available & hope to speeden the implosion of this failing oligarchy.

    • avatar

      because we are basically vassal states of the US and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. It would be a better option to strike a deal with Russia since their interests are more naturally aligned with ours (geographically too). In a US – EU block they don’t really care whether we are strong or not since they can do just fine without us anyway, we are just useful to them as long as we toe the company line and say “yes” when it matters. In a Russia – EU block they need us as much as we need them (because they’re not an economic powerhouse like the US) which ensure mutual cooperation. Would Russia still be the strongest country in that block? Sure. Would it be so overwhelmingly powerful that they could afford to ignore the EU as a whole? Absolutely not. And that’s the biggest difference.

    • avatar

      First provocation was made when US propose Ukraine to join NATO. What was against the deal done with Gorbatchev

  6. avatar

    I don’t know for Russians, I have the solution only for Americans 😐

    • avatar


  7. avatar

    With EU propaganda, like “debating Europe”, maybe …

  8. avatar

    Just stop listening to them. Just like many people stopped listening to the ones who keep repeating EU is a good thing

  9. avatar

    Yeah, sure. If Russians say something it is propaganda. If “our guys” say something, it is news. Do you really think everyone is as stupid as those journalists who do the fearmongering? Today’s media users are actually savvy and skeptical. They are not fearing Russians and they know that “our media” lies through the teeth, too. Give up the futile scaremongering against countries who know better than you. It’s pathetic, this Russophobia.

    • avatar

      this “Debating..what ever” is just propaganda, questions, questions 😀

  10. avatar

    How do you know they are Russian?

  11. avatar

    Cyberbomb the crap out of Russia. We should have done it years ago. Let them rebuild their net after…

  12. avatar

    All actors of politics have now entered the cyberspace. For how much I may be adverse to Russian propaganda they are not the only players in the game. Pinning the blame of “trolling” or “fakenews” on Russians alone is naive. The question should be more wide in its scope. Russians may well be the least influential at this time since all eyes are on them. Cyberpropaganda is now well established, and used by all currents of political thought. No matter who is the player its influence is large and growing.

  13. avatar

    We need to see more action from those leading the EU from Brussels.We are tired of bread and circus!
    If we want to save the EU we need stronger and more competent leadership.
    It makes me wanna puke when I see the leaders of the EU hugging and kissing Orban,Putin and Kaczynski when they came to their respective countries and once they got back to Brussels they start criticising them again.
    Only hoes(excuse my speech) kiss you only to backstab you afterwards and it appears that our European politicians do that too.
    I do not agree with what’s happening nowdays in Hungary,Russia or Poland but I also do not agree with our leaders double standards.
    A member of the European Parliament earns 17.000 euros a month and what do we get in exchange?what do they do for our greater good?nothing,I tell you!
    For the time being the European Parliament along with all of the EU’s institutions are just a bunch of redundant mechanisms that have no actual power to enforce their decisions upon our dear Union’s constituent states!

  14. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    First, it is important to understand what does EU consider as “Russian propaganda” or “disinformation”. My impression on that is:

    – any positive news about Russia, based on real facts;
    – sympathetic and friendly attitude towards Russian people and their culture;
    – respecting the human rights of those Russian people who support their government; understanding their point of view;
    – acknowledging Russian contribution to peace in Europe – historically and at present.

    Ask yourself – do any of those seem to you like Russian propaganda? If yes, then that means EU cannot fight this “disinformation” and even if it allocates 5 billion Euro for such “war”, it will still not win, because one cannot fight with the truth and win.

    Let’s see the opposite. What is considered “non-propaganda” news about Russia by the EU? Any news (based on facts or lies) that promote hatred towards the country, its government or those who support it.

    This is why I have a problem with the EU interpretation of “Russian trolls”. Trolls spread lies and hatred towards someone they target, based on non-existing reasons or narrow-minded views. Simply showing a positive opinion about Russia and defending it is not trolling. It is having a different point of view. EU has twisted the meaning of “trolling”. It seems to me that spreading hatred against Russia based on non-confirmed claims, rumours or omitting facts is considered as “non-propaganda”, “truth” and “information”, while friendly attitude and any positive view of Russia or its government is deemed as “trolling”.

    This is why I do not agree with the decision to waste 5 mln. Euro to fight imaginary monsters because it is pointless. Your question is “How can we fight back against Russian internet trolls?” I would paraphrase it to “How can we fight back against a different opinion?”

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Maia Alexandrova

      Russia is presently playing the 1984 Criminal Goldstein.

      Big Brother and Emmanuel Goldstein are the conceptual leaders of the opposing forces in Oceania: Big Brother is the titular head of Oceania, and Goldstein is the leader of his opponents, the Brotherhood. They are similar in that Orwell does not make clear whether they actually exist.

      Orwell’s 1984 is well worth a read.

    • avatar

      Dear Maia,

      professional and outstanding piece of work, congratulations! Everything you describe and judge is truly true … but … you do not draw the whole picture!

      This type of communication do not want to establish a sphere for an open and self-reflective discourse, but a form of power projection, already professionally used by the BBC during World War II and further developed to todays: Операции информационно-психологической войны / Operations in the information-psychological war (… Soviet Military Encyclopedia – Manyolo – Gerasimov …).

      Once again: well done + best regards

  15. avatar

    About as effective as guy verhofstad going to ukraine standing on maidan and talking war talk about russia

  16. avatar

    we want more russians … stop your paranoia

  17. avatar

    How do we fight back against EU-censorship? Facebook-censorship? Twitter censorship?

  18. avatar

    Stop fighting russia !
    One reason it has no foreign debt

  19. avatar

    We need a stronger Europe as a counterweight..

  20. avatar

    Frankly, are you saying that the States are not doing the same? Or China? Or IS?

    • avatar

      Samanda – yes, but we’re only talking about Russians here. Every one has their turn.

    • avatar

      Yoann – I already pointed out that we are only talking about Russians :) ?

  21. avatar

    If you hit your little toe against the bed in the morning, do you also curse the Russians for it!? ;-)

  22. avatar

    We can do the same to them,let,s undermine the power of putin ,let them hear Some western propaganda.

    • avatar

      What do we do with those spreading false news in Europe on behalf of the U$A or Hiterdogan’s Turkey?

  23. avatar

    Frédéric – the same thing. Next question?

  24. avatar

    Will recommend this page to my students. Excellent object of study how to attract and feed trolls of every kind.

    Best regards

  25. avatar

    We don’t have our own? Maybe that’s why….

  26. avatar

    Create our own European Antitrol Force and influence every election in post soviet space by saying truth. Easy-pisy

  27. avatar

    Before fighting russians troll maybe the EU shoukd have a proper news channel not ,Euronews is a private company owned by an Egyptian businessman and manipulate millions of people

  28. avatar

    Very simple-by supporting Yabloko Party.

  29. avatar

    Since 8 years I have been fighting against this kind of manipulation of opinions every day, you can recognize it quickly, the fake book counterfeiters, the names are fantasy names and the content is mostly only filled with hate speech against democracies, the reasoning is also very repetitive and if they encounter resistance, they become vulnerable and attempt to crush the contradiction through personal injury.

  30. avatar

    What defines a troll? Us not liking what they say?

  31. avatar

    By not giving reasons for the people to be disgruntled with their own governments.
    Trolls blossom on a ground that was fertilized by years of “could give a f**k about the people” by the governments.

  32. avatar

    So you will fight an imaginary foe, just as NATO warmongering ordered?
    Guess whose industrial military complex made record sales, and is profiting from the nonsense in which you apparently are participating.

  33. avatar

    Start a EuropeToday channel, only broadcast facts and genuine news.

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