In the report on the threat of intervention in elections, which was published today, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) considers systematic and constant increasing of awareness and source criticism necessary for recognising disinformation and malware.
In the opinion of the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson, influencing of our open society by foreign powers has reached an unprecedented level because the technological means of today enable to spread false information at a massive scale, and purposefully. He admitted that false information had been used in international relations for a long time, but Russia’s practice of recent years had taken it to almost scientific level.
“In open societies, where freedom of speech is an important principle, it is important to be aware what kind of a threat it is, and how to identify and prevent such activities,” Mihkelson said. He added that the aim of information laundering was breaking up of open societies.
Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, who drew up the report, thinks that in close cooperation of the Western countries, we can achieve better results against nationally organised campaigns. “Information laundering is not less dangerous than money laundering,” she said. “It is necessary to start exchanging information constantly, to exchange best practices and to strive for uniform standards in regulations, including the regulations concerning social media giants.”
Pentus-Rosimannus said that each person should start with following the elementary norms of digital hygiene, and in the case of every suspiciously emotional bit of information, use cold critical attitude in regard to its content and first of all its sources.
In the opinion of member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Henn Põlluaas, manipulation of people will become ever more simple if people do not learn to tell right information from false information.
Member of the Committee Barbi Pilvre said that the report was the first step in a very important process, and she expressed hope that the parliament that would be elected in spring would continue dealing with this issue.
One of the recommendations of the report concerns self-regulation of the media, including the social media. It also recommends appointing a permanent government agency for detecting organised information laundering and combating against it.
The proposals involving changing of laws concern amendments to the Advertising Act that would set a requirement of clearly showing who order and finance advertisements in social media channels. The report also includes a proposal to create a legislative framework in international cooperation.
The report, which was approved by consensus at the sitting of the Foreign Affairs Committee today, was drafted as a response to several recent attempts to intervene in and influence the elections in various democratic countries.
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