How not to be manipulated? How to deal with disinformation and fake news on the web?

– Propaganda is as old as the world, but before there was no technology that allows it to spread so quickly – so says French journalist Natalie Nougayrède. It is impossible not to agree with her. Hybrid warfare is a phenomenon that has been with us for a long time and disinformation activities have been shaping divisions in societies for a long time. This is particularly evident in the case of troll farms originating from the Kremlin’s broadcasting. The war in Ukraine intensifies this effect, but is not its genesis. How to defend yourself against information overload and lies?

NASK has a separate unit dedicated to finding and reporting any attempts to influence public opinion. Amongst its analyses, the Department for Counteracting Disinformation singles out information about rumours that refugees from Ukraine may take away hospital places from Poles as the most common recent propaganda symptom.

There were also unflattering opinions about the willingness to help and the financial fiasco for Poles involved in helping their neighbors. Of course, there have already been attempts to create panic, which was particularly visible at gas stations. All this follows the information that in the eastern regions of Poland it will be impossible to refuel a vehicle, as oil imports will be blocked. They forgot to mention that Poland has enough of this raw material in its warehouses.

– As Internet users, we don’t always know how to distinguish between real and manipulated information. It is all the more difficult because many of these messages are partly true, but presented in a distorted context. Disinformation also includes the use of films and photos, which are very difficult to verify but make a strong impression. And sometimes we have to deal with trolls (often they are bots), who do not provide information at all, and their statements take the form of aggressive, inflammatory opinions – explains Robert Król, director of the Center of New Technologies for PP in NASK.

Disinformation as a result of war?

NASK emphasizes that the actions of spreading post-truth are not necessarily of a war character. He gives as an example disinformation campaigns related to the epidemic and immunization program. – So we urge you not to succumb to your emotions when searching for information on the internet and only share verified news from reliable sources – we read in the statement of Scientific and Academic Computer Network.

As we read on the website of the Boym Institute, Anna Sobolewska, associated with the TVN station and the investigative program “Superwizjer,” shared a conclusion based on her investigation and years of experience. She also worked for NewsWeb, which is considered a breeding ground for fake news.

She pointed out that the topics carried were the outbreak of the Third World War, Polexit, the collapse of Sweden, the revolt of the Ukrainians who were about to do a repeat of Volhynia to us, and the Jewish invasion of the Polish economy. The news also contained information that Germany and France were planning to destroy the enemies of the European Union, PIS government. Also reported was the death of Alfie Evans, who died as a result of a vaccine or an adverse reaction after it was administered, in order to incite an anti-vaccine revolt, to which even other European countries succumbed.

The problem is older than it seems..

According to a report published in 2019 by NASK, more than half of Polish internet users admitted to having been exposed to factual manipulation over the course of several months, and 35 percent. The problem is older than it seems, because the respondents of the survey declared, that fake news accompanies them at least once a week.

This is significant because almost three years ago as many as 19 percent of. respondents made it clear that they did not check the reliability of the information they were absorbing in any way. According to analysts, the spread of fake news was already widespread, with nearly 9 percent noticing it daily. interviewed.

Several times a week, disinformation was seen by nearly 16 percent of., and once a week discovering the falsity of such information made as much as 11 percent. surveyed. The percentage of people who never noticed the symptoms of false information, which is only less than 3 percent, was significant., But in terms of the number of people living in Poland at that time, the numbers could be of the order of more than eight hundred thousand.

Putin’s trolls

In the context of organized disinformation groups, it is worth quoting the experience of a well-known Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, who wrote a book entitled “Putin&#8221s Trolls;. It proves that this procedure has been going on for several years and has a huge impact on the lives of not only individuals, but entire societies.

Jessika, who investigated and revealed more and more new reports about its effects, was herself a victim of such attacks. Her situation allowed her view to be confirmed and shed new light among the public opinion. Unfortunately, this was related to the personal drama of a journalist who is forced to live in hiding, fearing for her health and life.

In addition to her personal experiences, the book also presents a story from 13 years ago. The case of Renatas Juska, who as a Lithuanian diplomat and human rights defender fell victim to fabricated material on YouTube, which contributed to the loss of his post as ambassador to Hungary.

It also tells the story of American journalist Liza Wahl, who resigned from the American edition of RT after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, and of Martin Kragh, whose reliability as a scientist in the eyes of the Swedish public was questioned and almost razed to the ground.

Transformation of propaganda into disinformation

According to The Russian Federation also became involved in the socio-political life in the United States of America, where it tried to m.including. influence the outcome of the American elections, which is also confirmed by the findings of the money.en.

The Institute reports that influencing the electoral process in the United States has taken the form of two coordinated operations carried out by intelligence services and related entities at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

The Institute refers to the report “Soviet Active Measures in the Post-Cold War Era 1988 – 1992” published 20 years ago by the U.S. Information Agency, and prepared at the request of the House of Representatives. This is an important document, because it clearly emphasizes that the means of the Soviet Union, despite the lack of its continued existence, remained unchanged, and thanks to the development of technology, propaganda tactics and stirring on the socio-political scene were constantly improved.

It reports such impacts as manipulation of global public opinion, obstruction of governments, especially the U.S. government by creating content that generates worldwide opposition to U.S. policies and interests. The report declares that the activities are organized and massive, and that Russian intelligence services are indirectly responsible for them.

Trolls not only Putin – QAnon

Disinformation deeds can be recalled when we recall the figure of the famous Q, whom some call Q-Anon. A figure who warmed up Donald Trump’s image by publishing content according to which he fulfilled his election promises, but that could not be made public in the face of the power and strength of deepstate, with which the politician allegedly played a game. The conspiracy theory was that the world is ruled by a pedophile sect that worships Satan and has connections to Jewish circles. This theory stirred up distrust of the opposition class, so to speak, decrying their credibility in scoring the president’s behavior, but most importantly it aroused and continues to arouse anti-Semitic sentiments.

Q itself had a mythical character, attempts were made to surround it with powerful knowledge and capabilities like Anonymous, which announces in its mysterious posts events that in reality never happened. The action was quite widely commented on the Polish Internet, because a large part of the population, even in Poland, believed in the narrative presented at the time. It is quite commonly claimed that this project comes from the environment of the former American president as a drunkard’s concept, although real public relations with propaganda has nothing in common.

What is the purpose of fake news?

The purpose of false information may in fact be manifold, but its main purpose is to put a lie into circulation. The purpose of spreading false information is disinformation. It takes control over the discussion by introducing stories and facts impossible to verify. There are troll farms that aim to create information confusion, often causing panic, fear, aggression, hatred, or even polarizing audiences and arousing sympathy by reinforcing people’s stereotypes and creating information bubbles. The content often contradicts itself and has no more purpose than simply to exist and cause people to be crushed by infosphere. Fake news is usually one-sided and very biased. They lack objectivity and are usually tailored to specific target groups.

How to recognize fake news?

As we discussed above NASK determines that few people have the knowledge to properly distinguish between true and false information. Elementary knowledge on the subject, as it is intended for children and youth of primary grades 4-8 is provided by Pravda in its lesson “How to deal with the world of (dis)information?”which explains in a simple and matter-of-fact way the difference between facts and opinions, how images and captions affect the reception of information, and what clickbait and false claims are.

The documentary also contains several case studies to give you an idea of how we are doing.

The onet introduces the term “accusation” into the discussion, i.e. such behaviour, words or statements intended to provoke as many people as possible. – The harvest here is people drawn into an unnecessary discussion, preferably led off balance, engaged spending their time talking to a troll. In short: all those who “gulp the allegation/hook” we read in the article.

Trolling can take the form of absurd statements, often presenting an artificial ignorance of the phenomenon, childish conduct of discussions, as well as the creation of communities focused on making life miserable for other communities.

Many times people make mistakes or get emotional or slip up, but it does not always mean that they work as sowers of disinformation. We can recognize fake news by the way it influences our psyche and what we are going to do after we accept the given information.

We should pay special attention when the broadcasts or texts we read make us fearful, when they reinforce a certain conviction without presenting any alternative, when they make us hostile to a certain environment or people, or when they sound extremely ridiculous or too beautiful, as if they were prepared especially for us.

Trolls are able to operate for years, secretly gathering entire communities and baiting them with their message, which should also draw our attention when we begin to acquire attitudes and views that we had not noticed before, and we ourselves do not fully recognize their moment of adoption or do not know if we identify with them. Fake news affects emotions, and emotions are the strongest triggers of patterns and memories, so it is important to realize that we are victims of manipulation.

Enable Verification!

NASK has launched the action #EnableVerification – NASK against online disinformation, in the face of an attack by Russian content propagators Psychological and propaganda impact on the Internet is an important part of the so-called “social media”. hybrid actions, which are aimed at shaking the morale of the public opinion and deepening social divisions. In order to counteract this, it is necessary to monitor false information circulating on the Internet and to provide the public with reliable knowledge and tools to deal with the flood of disinformation – said Janusz Cieszynski, government plenipotentiary for. Cyber Security.