Disarming Disinformation: Our Shared Responsibility
Last updated: June 29, 2022
Disinformation is one of the Kremlin’s most important and far-reaching weapons. Russia has operationalized the concept of perpetual adversarial competition in the information environment by encouraging the development of a disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. This ecosystem creates and spreads false narratives to strategically advance the Kremlin’s policy goals. There is no subject off-limits to this firehose of falsehoods. Everything from human rights and environmental policy to assassinations and civilian-killing bombing campaigns are fair targets in Russia’s malign playbook.
Truth disarms Russia’s disinformation weapons. The Kremlin creates and spreads disinformation in an attempt to confuse and overwhelm people about Russia’s real actions in Ukraine, Georgia, and elsewhere in Europe. Because the truth is not in the Kremlin’s favor, Russia’s intelligence services create, task, and influence websites that pretend to be news outlets to spread lies and sow discord. Disinformation is a quick and fairly cheap way to destabilize societies and set the stage for potential military action. Despite having been exposed for engaging in these malign activities countless times, Russia continues to work counter to international norms and global stability.
Russia has increased disinformation to hide its brutal war on Ukraine’s negative impact on global food security and falsely place blame on sanctions intended to stop the war – sanctions with explicit carve-outs for agricultural products. More cynically still, Russia is targeting some of the most at-risk, food insecure regions – Africa and the Middle East – to manipulate populations into believing a lie and persuade their leaders to support Russia’s agenda to end Ukraine sanctions.
June 2, 2022
Video: Disinformation in the Chemical Weapons Space
In November 2021, experts from Bellingcat, European Union, the New-York Times and the Global Engagement Center discussed state-sponsored disinformation in the chemical weapons space with the permanent representatives of almost 100 countries at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Russia deploys disinformation across different continents for varied objectives, often working through tested proxies to support Kremlin foreign policy objectives indirectly, which provides a level of deniability. In some parts of Africa – including, most recently, Mali – Kremlin-linked proxies exploit instability to gain influence, particularly through disinformation and the deployment of the Wagner Group forces.
The Kremlin’s spreading of unfounded and debunked allegations that the United States and Ukraine are conducting chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine is part of a well-established Russian disinformation tactic. The Kremlin has a long track record of accusing others of the very violations they commit.
Russian state-owned and state-directed media, such as RT and Sputnik play a crucial role in how Russia uses disinformation to advance its foreign policy. These state-funded, and state-directed outlets disseminate Russian narratives to foreign audiences, and regularly amplify content from the other pillars of Russia’s disinformation ecosystem, including websites associated with Russia’s intelligence services. The State Department’s Global Engagement Center’s “Kremlin-Funded Media: RT and Sputnik’s Role in Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” report exposes Kremlin-controlled organizations that masquerade as independent media.
The State Department’s Global Engagement Center released the “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” report in August 2020. The report outlines the five pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem and how these pillars work together to create a media multiplier effect. In particular, it details how the tactics of one pillar, proxy sources, interact with one another to elevate malicious content and create an illusion of credibility. The report is also available in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic.
Counter Disinformation Dispatches
The Global Engagement Center’s Counter Disinformation Dispatches summarize lessons learned about disinformation and how to counter it based on the experiences of frontline counter-disinformation practitioners, for the benefit of those newly engaged in this issue. Previous editions of the Dispatches are listed below and are also available in Spanish, Russian and French.
march 25, 2022
Ukraine and the Power of “We”
The Russian Army’s brutal war on Ukraine is killing thousands of innocent civilians, including unconscionable attacks on hospitals. The valiant Ukrainian resistance is winning the world’s admiration and sympathy, while Russian cruelty destroys the appeal of its “Russian World” concept.
January 13, 2022
Exploiting Primal Fears
This Dispatch focuses on how and why fear is used in disinformation, while also showing that pointing out people’s irrational fears can help counter these false narratives.
Documentary evidence on instructions given to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) troll factory following Nemtsov’s murder, and extensive propaganda/disinformation claims following the Skripal and Navalny poisonings.
August 23, 2021
The Goals and Tactics of Russia’s Disinformation
The overall goals are to manipulate and weaken adversaries. The main tactics for weakening adversaries are to discredit, divide, disarm, and demoralize them. Russian authorities value disinformation for its long-run, cumulative effects.
A comprehensive analysis of how Russia likely segments target audiences and devises themes for each of them, based on an in-depth analysis by the Lithuanian Armed Forces Strategic Communication Department and analyses by Lithuanian NGO Debunk EU, which can serve as a template for other governments or organizations interested in conducting similar analyses for their countries.
March 23, 2021
Clandestine Disinformation and Agents of Influence
Documentary evidence from KGB archives on how the KGB tried to influence the decisions of foreign governments in the early 1980s provides unimpeachable information on this little-known aspect of disinformation. KGB-controlled messengers tried to convince foreign leaders that if they pursued policies opposed by the Soviet Union, this would create “nightmare scenarios” for them. There is no reason to believe the same methods are not used today.
December 1, 2020
What Can We Learn from the Active Measures Working Group?
The U.S. government’s interagency Active Measures Working Group is widely credited with causing the Soviets to stop crude, overt, anti-American disinformation in the late 1980s. The Dispatch examines the factors for its success, with lessons that may be useful today.
November 10, 2020
Building an International Disinformation Network
How the SVR-directed Strategic Culture Foundation partnered with Global Research (a far-left website in Canada) and The 4th Media (an obscure website in Beijing), to begin to build an international disinformation system in the early 2010s.
September 28, 2020
Using Pseudo-Academic Online Journals to Amplify Fringe Voices
How the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) uses a pseudo-academic online journal, the Strategic Culture Foundation, to amplify the views of fringe voices in the West.
False Russian and Chinese claims that the coronavirus is a U.S. biological weapon follow 70 years of false claims of U.S. biowarfare.
April 14, 2020
What Works in Debunking
Tips on debunking, the importance of discrediting, telling stories, recognizing the power of associations; how truth best competes with lies.
March 25, 2020
The Myth that Debunking Doesn’t Work
The faulty social science finding that hampered counter-disinformation efforts starting in 2007.
February 11, 2020
Three Ways to Counter Disinformation
There are three basic ways to counter disinformation: 1) refuting disinformation claims before they can take hold, as is done in Lithuania; 2) a “counter-allegation” approach, in which one tries to correct misperceptions after they have become established; 3) a “counter-brand” approach, which emphasizes exposing the disinformer’s misdeeds as a way to discredit their false claims.
January 8, 2020
A Counter-Disinformation System That Works
How Lithuanian NGOs use algorithms, volunteer researchers, and strong media contacts to monitor, research, and debunk disinformation before it spreads widely.
A set of infographics that provides an overview of mis-, dis-, and malinformation and five proactive steps that individuals can take to help stop the spread of disinformation: recognize the risk, question the source, investigate the issue, think before you link, and talk to your circle.
Overview of terms used to describe different kinds of foreign influence activities for the purpose of undermining the interests of the United States and its allies.
This resource highlights tactics used by disinformation campaigns (e.g., manipulating content service providers or defacing public websites) that seek to disrupt American life and the infrastructure that underlies it. It includes use of new and traditional media to amplify divides and foment unrest in the homeland, sometimes coordinated with illicit cyber activities.
May 16, 2022
Deputy GEC Coordinator Karl Stoltz’s Remarks at the Stockholm Free World Forum
Deputy Coordinator Karl Stoltz delivered these remarks at the opening of the Stockholm Free World Forum Conference, on May 3, 2022. The U.S. Embassy in Stockholm co-organized this event with the Swedish foreign and security policy-oriented think tank Stockholm Free World Forum.
March 21, 2022
March 16, 2022
March 17, 2022
EU vs Disinfo: Defectors, Defiance and Disinformation
May 6, 2022
Vladimir Putin’s Historical Disinformation
For decades, Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to appropriate and exploit history to further his geopolitical aims. Owning and controlling Russia’s collective memory of World War II is one of Putin’s greatest obsessions.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials as well as official media routinely amplify Kremlin propaganda, conspiracy theories, and disinformation. This amplification is designed to rationalize President Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked war against Ukraine while undermining trust in the United States, democratic institutions including NATO, and independent media.
April 21, 2022
April 18, 2022
Faces of Kremlin Propaganda: Dmitri Peskov
Dmitri Peskov has served as Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson since 2008. In this capacity, he has played a key role in propaganda and disinformation campaigns to cover up the Kremlin’s links to various poisonings. Serving Putin has been lucrative for Peskov, and despite being a civil servant for his entire career, he and his family are now multimillionaires.
After Ukraine’s forces liberated the town on March 31, 2022, disturbing reports emerged of civilians found lying dead in the streets, in back yards, and in mass graves. The Putin Regime’s disinformation campaign in response to the discovery of apparent killings of civilians in Bucha is notable for its speed and adaptability.
April 7, 2022
The Kremlin continues to spread disinformation about the atrocities in Bucha and the surrounding region. Independent analysts and media outlets have already debunked the Russian Federation’s false claims. Learn more:
march 31, 2022
Faces of Kremlin Propaganda: Vladimir Solovyov
March 22, 2022
Real news site or Russian propaganda?
March 16, 2022
How to tell fact from fiction online — even in wartime
March 15, 2022
Russia’s media crackdown hides war in Ukraine
March 14, 2022
Kremlin Disinformation Bulletin
February 26, 2022
Kremlin Disinformation Bulletin
January 20, 2022
Fact vs. Fiction: Russian Disinformation on Ukraine
January 20, 2022
Russia’s Top Five Persistent Disinformation Narratives