It’s more than just fighting trolls - Responses to Disinformation


On October 11, 2018 Nina Jankowicz discussed the dangers of the Russian information war in Europe and the United States and explained how governments, social media companies and society as a whole can respond to it. Comparing past efforts to tackle the problem to a game of whack-a-mole, Jankowicz argued that we should address it on several levels.

"If people don’t know who they can trust, they are less likely to participate in the democratic process."

Drawing on her research for her upcoming book about the evolution of modern Russian influence campaigns in Eastern Europe, Jankowicz explained how, over the past decade, Russia has tried to erode the people’s trust in democratic institutions in countries like Estonia, Ukraine, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and the United States.

"Unknowingly social media actors have enabled Russia to find and target their victims."

According to Jankowicz, Russian influence tactics include funding protests and political parties, using troll armies and fake experts to amplify and legitimize certain messages, and cyber crimes like the 2016 DNC hack to spread malinformation. Social media platforms play a very important role in these campaigns, because they allow for the targeting of specific groups and make it easier to influence these groups by circulating disinformation.

"It’s incumbent on us to educate ourselves."

Nina Jankowicz argued that disinformation must be fought on several levels at the same time. First of all, governments should directly respond to these campaigns – with sanctions if necessary. Secondly, there needs to be some form of social media platform regulation either self-imposed or top-down. But most importantly, according to Jankowicz, civics and critical thinking must to be promoted. Only if we know how to properly deal with the vast amount of information that the internet offers us, we can successfully fight disinformation.

We thank Nina Jankowicz for her time and insights into a topic that is now more relevant than ever!

(Photo: Nina Jankowicz ©Amerikahaus)