RANJENI MUNUSAMY: SA is not alone, the world is in the grips of an information war
The model to fuel outrage through fake news, discredit journalists and propel discourse to suit certain political agendas has been emulated in many parts of the world
I had no idea the world was at war. I knew there was an information war in SA, but I did not see the big picture until I heard the European Commission announce the allocation of €5m to counter the assault on democracy across Europe.
The commission’s vice-president, Andrus Ansip, this week called on European nations to unite to fight “relentless propaganda and information weaponising used against our democracies”.
He said: “Disinformation is not new. It has been a weapon for many centuries. In this century what has changed is the speed, aggression and ease with which it spreads.”
Concerns are mounting about interference in the EU’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for May. Ansip was forthright about who was behind the onslaught. “There is strong evidence pointing to Russia as the primary source of disinformation in Europe. Disinformation is part of Russia’s military doctrine and strategy to divide and weaken the West,” he said. Russia spends €1.1bn a year on propaganda. Ansip said a troll factory based in St Petersburg, with about 1,000 workers, and bot armies were engaged in subterfuge, spreading fake news and distorting public discourse. This is not a thumb-suck. A Russian journalist, Lyudmila Savchuk, went under cover and spent two months working at the St Petersburg “Internet Research Agency”. She disclosed its inner operations. “The factory worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There was a day shift, a night shift, and even shifts over the holidays,” Savchuk said in an interview on National Public Radio. Through US special counsel Robert Mueller’s...