How to resist information aggression: the experience of Ukraine

23.03.2020 Off By Polyanska
How to resist information aggression: the experience of Ukraine

 

Main goals of the RussianFederation aggression in Ukrainehappen to be the following: foreign policy

1. Demonstration of strength and readiness for military and forceful methods of protecting their interests in the area of strategic influence (all post-Soviet space).

annexation of Crimea

Creating a local military conflict in the Donbas area

A military operation in Syria

2. Reducing the influence of EU countries on the post-Soviet space.

A threat to the Baltic States to demonstrate the crisis of the European security system.

Formation of mistrust between “old” and “new” NATO members.

Demonstration of NATO’s inability to guarantee security in Europe without the participation of Russia

3. EU defragmentation. Forcing EU leaders to engage in bilateral dialogue with Russia as a guarantor of stability in Europe. Formation of a new security system in Europe. EU breakdown into “vassals” and “suzerain” countries. Reducing the UK’s role in crisis management as an element of weakening EU unity

Destabilization of the situation within the key EU countries to change the priorities from the external threats of the Russian Federation to the resolution of internal conflicts

Information aggression of the Russian Federation: goals and directions today

Goals:

1. Targeting the Basic Principles of International Law: Trust-Mutual Respect-Human Rights as a Basis for Democracy.
2. Creating a Neurotic Emotional Background. Constant increase in anxiety and uncertainty. Distribution of symptoms of bipolar disorder in society. Fear-raising and phobia-making. Reducing the criticality of the perception of information.
3. Formation of a critical and controversial model of relations between authorities and society. Demonstration of the inability of EU authorities to ensure the security of citizens. Demonstration of a violation of basic democratic principles by the authorities against the background of increased security measures (freedom of speech, freedom of political opinion, freedom of religion). Intimidation and blackmail of EU governments and political leaders

Information aggression of the Russian Federation: the main objects of attack

Political leaders. Reputation-Trust.

State institutions. Dehumanization of security agencies, special services and army command.

The system of international law. Complete disregard and unpunished violation of all rules of international law and humanitarian rules in war zones by the Russian Federation.

International security system. Demonstration of the incapacity of international institutions to resolve conflict situations.

Targeting these objects creates the necessary “intra-national problematic field” and socio-psychological background to advance the pro-Kremlin political forces. On the other hand, this allows Russia to change international law advantageously.

 

Information aggression of the Russian Federation: forces and means

Institutional and instrumental structure of the information field in terms of military terminology:

Means of defeat: Information messages, events, fiction, film and audio-visual products (paintings, posters, murals, clips, songs, etc.).

Means of delivery: media, social networks, communication venues (round tables, seminars, etc.), advertising and PR agencies, lobby groups.

Actors: Leaders of public opinion (activists of NGOs, trade unions, industry associations, etc.), political figures (leaders and activists of parliamentary political parties and movements), officials, journalists, bloggers, network activists, and more.

Information aggression of the Russian Federation: detection and counteraction

The main markers of implementation of psychological operations in the information space: 

1. A sharp rise in destructive content (crime, corruption, suicide, conflict). It is determined by the monitoring results: the number of stories, the number of views, for the electronic media – the increase in the number of views, reposts, increase in the speed of distribution of content.
2. Localization of event participants and countersystemic nature of the plots. Based on the psychological goals outlined above, the position of relevant state or international institutions is excluded from the subjects and messages, which creates a feeling of helplessness and inactivity of the system. Separation of the people from the ruling regime. As Russian propaganda does, claiming that they respect the fraternal Ukrainian people, but the authorities in Ukraine have been seized by the “junta”, the “Nazis/nationalists”.
3. The emotional nature of the content. Plots stimulate emotional rather than logical reactions to events.
4. Targeting content to specific target groups (national, political, geographical, age, etc.).

 

The main problems of organization of counteraction:

1. The speed of creation and distribution of destructive content that is not comparable to the speed of response. The essence of the problem is in the contradiction between speeds and volumes of production of destructive content and prompt response to it. Example: statistics on the web, the number of crime videos compared to prevention and punishment? In particular, the events of “hostage executions” and “punishment of terrorists”.
2. The fusion of the state system and political regime. In these circumstances, information attacks on public institutions are masked by political struggles, which complicates their detection.
3. The extraterritorial threat. Actors and producers of destructive content can be citizens of any country: both conscious “agents of influence” and simply “useful idiots”.
4. Political correctness. The problem of political correctness is the need to distort reality for the sake of political expediency. So the inability of political leaders to articulate the Russian threat has opened up the EU’s information space to destructive Russian content. As a result, today, all Normandy format participants for their constituents were either “Washington puppets” or “militarists who move the world to war, stimulating and encouraging aggression against Russia by the Ukrainian junta.” In these circumstances, Russia has become a factor in the domestic political order in the elections of the United States and all European countries.

 

The main goals of counteraction:

1. Strengthening confidence in state and international institutions.
2. Raising public awareness of the goals and impact of information aggression, structure and organization.
3. Forming a critical approach to information and social settings that ensure the psychological stability of citizens on the effects of destructive content.
4. Involvement of large masses of people in the production and promotion of “constructive” content.
5. Form a system of active influence on the main actors and limiting their capabilities, participation in the promotion of destructive content.

 

The main forms and methods of counteraction:

1. Boycotting by the expert community and official speakers (politicians, officials) of the opponent’s media sites to deactualize the content.
2. Formation of a database of key actors of the enemy, blocking their presence in the communications platforms (round tables, forums, seminars, etc.).
3. Stigmatization of “agents of influence”, “useful idiots” and other actors by the professional community.
4. Formation of organizations and centers for counteraction to information aggression, capable of clearly articulating actual threats to external information influence and designating actors, based on inspections and data of special services.
5. Diplomatic sanctions on actors (entry ban).

Information aggression of the Russian Federation: Ukrainian experience of counteraction

The system of counteraction is built in several horizons (personal, information, internal security, diplomatic) and is a set of “sanctions” and actions against actors who actively promote in the information space “destructive content”.

Given that the main condition for building credibility with the speaker or resource is the maximum openness of the author, we are given the opportunity of information, legal and diplomatic means of influencing key actors, and the ability not to transfer private stories to the political horizon. In other words, information attacks and personal sanctions (bans on entry into the country, preventive conversations with law enforcement agencies) against actors leave room for dialogue with state officials but work to reduce the activity of potential and active adversaries.

 

Personal horizon:

The whole system is built on the self-restraint of the defendants, after the sanctions for their actions and the independent promotion of information about sanctions for the promotion of destructive content.

 

Basic sanctions:

– Stigmatization of actors in the Internet and information resources.

– Preventive conversations with security organizations with actors.

– Prohibition of entry into Ukraine and allies for propaganda that threatens national security.

 

Main goals:

• As much as possible to depersonify the content and information of the actor, which will undermine the trust in him and his information in the future.

 

• To force media management to adjust information policy on Ukraine and the Allies.

 

Information horizon:

Aim: form a critical threshold for enemy content, and establish a list of sanctions, public opinion policies for relaying and promoting enemy content.

 

Goals:

– To provoke representatives of the expert pool of the opponent to go to dialogue and develop rules of content formation. Restrict them with their information policy framework.

– To provoke the activity of embassies and official structures to resolve the crisis in the information space. To involve official structures in the “expert dialogue” as guarantors of compliance with framework agreements in information policy.

1. Actors marginalization. Their maximum attachment to Russian toxic projects.
2. Blocking the possibility of forming effective network media resources with the participation of the Ukrainian expert pool.
3. Prevention of the emergence of new materials and media resources with foreign funding and anti-Ukrainian content.

 

– Unbalance “agents of influence” and “useful idiots”, make them change the system of evaluative judgments and the modality of rhetoric.

– To paralyze the activity of collaborators in creating media resources affiliated with the Kremlin’s propaganda media system.

1. Conducting preventative interviews by the Ukrainian security service with Ukrainian “useful idiots” identified on these resources.
2. Bringing information, through special services, to Ukrainian media managers, the “dangers” of interaction, promotion or participation in the creation of media resources, with the participation of Kremlin-affiliated influencers.

 

External Security Horizon:

Aim:

Localize the activity of the enemy’s expert pool into the territory of Russia and its allies.

Goals:

– Make the problem relevant for the special services of the Ukrainian allies (Baltic States, Moldova, Georgia, Great Britain, USA, etc.).

– To agree on the coordination of actions to block their participation in the work of communication platforms of our allies.

– Prevention of participation of Ukrainian potential “useful idiots” in joint events with actors.

1. Identify 1-3 actors for demonstrative sanctions.

 

Diplomatic horizon:

External goal:

To demonstrate to the foreign audience and potential agents of influence the readiness of Ukraine and its allies to protect their information space for potential actors of information aggression.

Internal goal:

Prevention of unwanted external contacts with potential agents of influence.

 

Ukrainian Cases: Deactualization of Russian Content

1. Restrictions on the presence of Russian media in Ukraine.

This feature allows you to limit the access of destructive content to a wide target audience and reduce its impact on the social and psychological state of the population.

1. A boycott by the Ukrainian expert pool of Russian media resources and discussion venues. The propaganda toxicity of the Russian media for Ukrainian experts has sharply limited the amount of content that is relevant to Ukrainians, and the aggressive propaganda position of the Russian media allows:

– To make information content of the Russian media out of relevance in Ukraine.

– Localize the relevance of content within the geographical borders of the Russian Federation.

– Limit the target audience of Russian media in Ukraine to a narrow group of people, a priori loyal to the “Russian world”, economically and socially passive population.

 

Together, content deactualization exposed the aggressive propaganda nature of Russian media information policy and reduced the level of trust in Russian sources for statistical errors.

 

Ukrainian Cases: political toxicity and stigmatization of Savchenko

Savchenko’s return as an informational and psychological operation.

Throughout her imprisonment and trial of Savchenko, she was top news for Ukraine and the world. The media purposefully made her a hero, keeping her recognizable and those qualities of politicians that Ukraine demanded in 2014.

Experts’ attention was drawn to the question why Savchenko? Why not Soloshenko, not Afanasyev, not Kolchenko or Sentsov, whose arrests were “kidnappings” in their pure form, and terms of human rights violations and accusations more blatant?

We found the answer when we raised her story and formed a psychological portrait of Savchenko: she is emotional, mentally unstable, and prone to outrage. The military past has the necessary competencies, and the volunteer experience and captive experience gives it the right to speak of “peace at any cost.” In doing so, it is simple enough to speak to ordinary people from small towns and villages in their language.

The official status makes it an ideal actor for creating and distributing destructive content.

Thus, we were able to see several signs of the infiltration of the “agent of influence” in the political system of the country, in order to influence and manipulate the social and mental attitudes of the population.

 

Kremlin main bonuses:

1. The Kremlin has received an “agent of influence” – an official (a lawfully elected People’s Deputy, able to convey and impose representatives of different target audiences and levels from PACE deputies and top-level government officials to Kremlin residents and positions. Lack of competence and emotional instability, in this case, determine the destructiveness of its actions.
2. Official status for Kremlin propaganda actors opens access to Western media with minimal criticality in evaluating promoted information. Among such, Russian official information and propaganda triggers can be mentioned figures like Rogozin or Sergei Markov.

The main problem with counteracting such operations is the inability to act on the political plane within counterintelligence protocols. Because of the actors’ affiliation with official authorities and political organizations, we face the problem of violation of democratic freedoms.

The only way to solve this problem was to block the action of the actor by key political actors, to consolidate the expert community in positioning Savchenko as an “agent of influence”. Rigidly defined and articulated in the expert environment the political goals and objectives of the Russian aggression in Ukraine made it possible to create a system of labelling the subjects of “Friend or foe” policy, which significantly narrows the possibilities of influence of such psychological operations on the social systems of the state.

However, all these actions require a coordinated position of all subjects and recognition of aggressive influence on the main systems of the state by the enemy.