Education Key to Fighting Disinformation, But Requires Time

The panel Disinformation Campaigns – A Source of Instability in Eastern Partnership Countries focused on the practical aspects of disinformation, on the forms and practices panellists faced in their countries, and on potential ways of combatting it.

Dr Mark V. Vlašič, Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University from the United States, pointed out that disinformation required a broad response, from the entire society: “Everybody has to do their part,” be it the state or the individual. Education and media literacy play a key role in addressing this issue, but for such measures to have effect time is required, panellists agreed.

Dr Angelina Gros-Tchorbadjiyska of the Security Union Task Force Secretariat, DG Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission stressed that education was key for people to look at information critically: “The only way [to fight disinformation] is by training people on how to look at the information they receive critically.”

Overall, disinformation is not a new concept, it has been around for centuries; however, said Ms Elina Lange-Ionatamišvili, Senior Expert at NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, it has been intensified recently by social media. Moreover, the eroding trust in government and growing trust in social media further facilitate circulation of disinformation. This means that social media and new technologies should also be used by those actors who fight disinformation, she added.

Meanwhile, Mr Vakhtang Makharoblishvili, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, pointed out that “knowing your enemy can be an advantage”, but sometimes it is hard to pinpoint them, which is why better coordination and communication with institutions and partners is required. Another major factor in fighting disinformation, according to Mr Alexandr Roitman, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova, is transparency, as malign actors cannot exploit those who are open and transparent in their actions.

However, as Ms Veronika Víchová, Coordinator and Analyst of the Kremlin Watch Program, European Values Think-Tank from the Czech Republic, pointed out, those spreading disinformation often try to create an environment where everything is possible instead of trying to make people believe specific narratives. This makes people easier to manipulate, she said.