Forging a Collective Shield

on 13.12.2023
digital shield

On Tuesday, November 28, GLOBSEC hosted an online workshop titled "Forging a Collective Shield: Best Practices in Countering Disinformation and How to Scale Them." This event brought together diverse stakeholders from Central and Eastern Europe to explore effective strategies in the battle against disinformation. Going beyond the conventional panel discussion format, the workshop provided a platform for experts to share their experiences, innovations, and successes in countering disinformation.

Seven participants presented their projects:

  1. Peter Jančárik (Seznam, Konšpirátori.sk) presented a project on gamified media literacy. He shared his experience, saying that "Teachers find our interactive quizzes really useful and fun to work with. These educators are great amplifiers and natural authorities. They also have a platform to discuss disinformation with their students and build resilience among them."
  2. Kristína Šefčíková (PSSI) presented a project on disinformation as a business model. She emphasized that "PSSI's research has proven that disinformation can be a financially profitable business and ideological motivation is not the only driving force behind actors that spread disinformation. Defunding them should be explored as a counter-strategy to malign information activities alongside the more traditional content-based approach."
  3. Connor O´Kelley (CSD) discussed the disinformation landscape in Bulgaria.
  4. Ruslana Margova (BROD) introduced the BROD project.
  5. Yevhen Fedchenko (StopFake) shared insights on the importance of sharing experience internationally.
  6. Jaroslav Valuch (Transitions) covered the media literacy of senior citizens project.
  7. Siim Kumpas (EEAS) presented the EUvs Disinfo project. A collaborative exchange like this nurtures an environment that promotes the generation of new ideas, facilitates discussions on commonalities and differences, and fosters connections among individuals, laying the groundwork for potential future collaborations. 

Key Takeaways: 

Successful projects are scalable: Presenters showcased several small-scale projects that have demonstrated success, such as one presented by Transitions, empowering senior citizens through media literacy skills. The project produced online and print learning resources for senior citizens and executed training- of- trainers workshops. The immediate interest generated by these projects underscores their potential scalability and the essential need for an event like this to foster discussion and collaboration. 

Relationships and trust are key: Establishing enduring personal relationships and trust over the long term has proven essential, highlighting that a one-time engagement in the region is not only inadequate but reinforces the importance of repeated interactions. This approach ensures a deeper impact and sustainable efforts in countering disinformation. 

Local amplifiers are out there: Whereas a focus on digital networks as amplifiers of disinformation should be maintained, especially in terms of regulation, it is crucial to recognize the amplifiers of resilience-building to counter disinformation. Local amplifiers, such as librarians and teachers, play a key role in disseminating accurate information and countering disinformation at the grassroots level, amplifying efforts to combat disinformation on multiple fronts. Project Konspiratori.sk, for instance, crafted engaging short and long interactive quizzes along with comprehensive handbooks. These resources have already been utilised by 500 teachers in Slovakia.  

Businesses have a role to play: Examining disinformation from a financial perspective reveals a potent strategy for countering its impact. Disinformation, treated as a lucrative business model, generates revenue. To tackle this, a key approach involves engaging businesses and advocating for their abstention from advertising on websites that sponsor disinformation. Initiatives such as PSSI's project in Czechia highlight the importance of quantifying the monetary dimension, showcasing efforts to calculate the earnings of disinformation-spreading websites. 

Other DisinfoHub events:  

As part of the same project, GLOBSEC organized country-specific events in BulgariaCzechia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Poland. These gatherings aimed to address unique challenges and foster tailored solutions in the battle against disinformation at the national level. The insights gained from these events contributed to the overall success and relevance of the workshop, creating a holistic approach to countering disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe.  

Additionally, five meetings of the DisinfoHUB took place at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum 2023. Two sessions featured EU policymakers and representatives from digital platforms, followed by three topical side events titled “Strengthening societal resilience: Best practices in countering disinformation and malign influence”, “Strategic Communication: Battle for Hearts and Minds What are the lessons learned?”  and “AI and Trustworthy Information: How to make the most out of it?”  

Best practices on fighting disinformation were regularly debated during StratHub meetings with policymakers and specialists on strategic communication in Slovakia.