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:
The 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!