Central Europe’s youth and growing levels of disinformation shape the latest output from GLOBSEC’s Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) team. Over the course of a busy week, this key GLOBSEC Policy Institute project has launched three important initiatives on issues with consequences for Slovakia, its near-neighbours and beyond.

 

Meet the Inbetweeners

Developed in conjunction with the National Endowment for Democracy GLOBSEC Youth Trends: How Young Central Europeans View the World used recent opinion poll data and focus group discussions to determine:

  • Which direction Central Europe should be heading according to the region’s young generation
  • Whether young Central Europeans more supportive of the EU and NATO than their parents
  • Who among Central Europeans values liberal democracy the most?

Some of the findings are intriguing, to say the least. While the region’s youth generally support membership of the EU and NATO, they nevertheless lack a deeper understanding of either organisation’s activities and, indeed, current geopolitical issues. This is particularly true of young Czechs, Hungarians and Slovaks, a third of which do not hold any firm opinion of either organisations. Such findings seemingly fly in the face of awareness campaigns aimed at young people living in the Visegrad Four region.

Respondents were also asked whether their countries should affiliate more with Western or Eastern states and their respective values. While there is certainly a lack of self-identification with the West in Central Europe, the region’s youth generally support the idea that their state should remain in between both geopolitical flanks.

“GLOBSEC YOUTH TRENDS paints an interesting and even surprising picture of Central Europe and its young generation. Some of the usually held assumptions regarding attitudes of young people were refuted.” says Daniel Milo, from GLOBSEC Policy Institute and one of the authors of the report.

“One of the main findings is that the diversity and differences among the 4 countries we researched – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – is much bigger than we previously thought.’’

Fighting the Fakes

It goes without saying that many of the opinions held by young Central Europeans are shaped by what they read online and in traditional media outlets. However, mainstream media is coming under attack for spreading fake news, propaganda and distorting facts like never before. But what, exactly, constitutes fake news? What’s the difference between DIS- and MIS-information? How easy is it to spot manipulation online?

The answer to these questions and more can be found in Media and Disinformation: A Survival Guide to Your Everyday Life on the Internet. Developed in partnership with University of Matej Bel Banska Bystrica and Central European University Budapest, this online course will bring participants closer to understanding the dynamics surrounding media and the spread of disinformation. Through a selection of multimedia and highly-interactive sessions, renowned experts outline ways in which media can be manipulated, states sponsor information confrontations, how to spot fake media, and more.

Elves vs. Trolls

The GLOBSEC-sponsored Internet ‘Survival Guide’ also provides some of the tools necessary for combatting online fakery and trolling. Further sources of information can also be found at counterdisinfo.org. This unique GLOBSEC website provides committed Internet ‘elves’ with guides and materials to support online campaigns, tips on creating effective online content and making better use of social media.

Put simply, counterdisinfo.org is a ‘one stop shop’ for campaigns to keep fake news, disinformation and online hoaxes in check. Its how-to guides are also supported by tips and tricks, as well as a collection of free online tools.

GLOBSEC is naturally delighted to have developed these projects. It’s also looking forward to seeing all of them have an impact on regional public opinion and information dissemination.