Report: Awareness crucial in fight against information laundering

Disinformation is a concern as Estonia is to vote in Riigikogu as well as European Parliament elections this spring.
Disinformation is a concern as Estonia is to vote in Riigikogu as well as European Parliament elections this spring. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

In a newly published report on the threat of intervention in elections, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu considers the systematic and constant increasing of awareness and source criticism necessary for recognising disinformation and malware.

In the opinion of Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson, the influencing of Estonia's open society by foreign powers has reached unprecedented levels because modern technological means enable the spreading of false information on a massive scale, and intentionally, according to a Riigikogu press release.

He admitted that false information had been used in international relations for a long time, but Russia's practice in recent years had taken it to an almost scientific level.

"In open societies, where freedom of speech is an important principle, it is important to be aware of what kind of a threat it is, and how to identify and prevent such activities," Mr Mihkelson said, adding that the goal of information laundering was to break up open societies.

Committee deputy chairwoman Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform), who drew up the report, believed that in close cooperation between Western countries, better results can be achieved 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 regulations concerning social media giants."

Ms 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 a cold, critical attitude in regard to its content and first and foremost its sources.

Committee member Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) believed that the manipulation of the people would become increasingly more simple if people did not learn to discern between true and false information.

Fellow committee member Barbi Pilvre (SDE) said that the report was the first step in a very important process, and she expressed hope that the Riigikogu to be elected this spring would continue handling this issue.

Report includes recommendations

One of the recommendations made in the report concerned the self-regulation of the media, including social media. The report also recommended appointing a permanent government agency for the detection of organised information laundering and the combatting thereof.

Proposals involving legislative amendments concerned amendments to the Advertising Act that would set a requirement of clearly displaying who ordered and financed advertisements on social media channels. The report also included a proposal to establish a legislative framework for international cooperation.

The report, which was approved by consensus at Tuesday's meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was drafted as a response to several recent attempts to intervene in and influence elections in various democratic countries.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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