SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Todd C. Helmus (RAND) as part of its SMA EUCOM Speaker Series.
Countering Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns is a complex task which involves many different policy changes from both government and private actors. In this meta-analysis, Dr. Helmus and team examined previous research and pulled suggestions for how to counter Russian disinformation. These suggestions were separated into five categories: a) platform policies, b) governing policies, c) coordination efforts, d) awareness and education, and e) supporting media. Encouraging platforms to make policy changes was identified as a crucial step because most Russian disinformation is spread through social media. Suggested policy changes for platforms include improving detection and removal of inauthentic content, revising their advertising policies, improving their user privacy controls, adjusting their algorithms, revising membership policies, and improving information sharing among between platforms.
For the USG, the most frequent suggestion relating to government policies was supporting journalists and content creators in countries on Russia’s border. These countries are frequent targets of Russian disinformation. Other suggestions include implementing sanctions for deterrence, improving the collection of intelligence, improving information dissemination and public diplomacy, improving cyber policy, and creating a cohesive national strategy. Improving coordination in the interagency, inter-government, between the public and private sector, and throughout civil society were identified as crucial to giving false information attribution. Media literacy was identified as one of the most important counter disinformation tools; however, it currently has the least amount of momentum behind it. Making public warnings about disinformation and fact checking online posts were also identified as important areas of education and awareness. Supporting media—including domestic and foreign journalists—is vital because they are serving on the front lines of the current information war. Similarly, supporting content creators and other forms of media, who can create an effective counter narrative, are important combatants in the information war against Russia. Dr. Helmus concluded by stating that while the USG has worked to support overseas allies and has levied sanctions against Russia in the past, a clear and coherent counter propaganda strategy is still absent.
Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.