France, Germany and Poland unite to combat Russian disinformation and bots

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

In a meeting, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland discussed the idea of mounting a joint resistance against extensive Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns in Europe carried out using coordinated networks of bots and trolls.

According to Spiegel, Stéphane Séjourné, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, stated that the three capitals have agreed on a joint 'early warning mechanism' to resist influence operations. 

Paris, Berlin, and Warsaw expect particularly intensive campaigns before the European elections and during the Olympic Games in Paris.

Since the summer of 2023, France has actively monitored Russian-led propaganda operations in several European countries, including those targeting French, German, and Polish populations. The large-scale usage of bots and trolls, as well as a network of almost 200 biassed content farms (low-quality online news outlets containing plagiarised, sensationalistic, and often automatically-generated content), has been observed.

Paris warns that this was only a preparation for Russia’s deployment of an even larger campaign ahead of the European elections, aiming to influence public opinion and undermine support for aid to Ukraine.

The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently uncovered a systemic disinformation campaign aiming to bolster pro-Russian sentiment within the German-speaking segment of the Twitter (X) social media platform.

Annalena Baerbock, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, noted that Russia may blow real Western political issues out of proportion to support its narrative, including criticism directed at certain EU members for not "pulling their weight" in supporting Ukraine.

"We must not play into this. Supporting Ukraine is not a ‘competition’, but a team effort. Our unity is our strength," she emphasised.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also believes that the 2024 elections will be a prime target for disinformation and foreign interference.

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