UAvsDisinfo. Commentary on the governmental concept for protecting Ukrainian information space from disinformation

Photo credit: Finance Monthly

As Ukrainian government attempts to reinvent its approach to tackling the problem of malign information influence, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Volodymyr Borodianskyi presented a concept for protecting Ukrainian information space from disinformation. Head of HWAG Liubov Tsybulska evaluated the program on air of UA: Ukrainian Radio (available here, in UA), stressing the following:

  • Importance of strategic approach, since “countering fakes cannot be perceived as a done deal”. Technical challenges that develop with the rise of social media introduce new rules of the game, — and Russian government invests heavily into exploiting their vulnerabilities. It is, therefore, essential to combat not fake news per se but disinformation as a broader system.
  • Necessity to take into account not only external, but internal sources of disinformation that further contribute to muddling media environment.
  • Pressing need for detecting reliability of sources. The choice whether to consume the content is still the reader’s to make, however, they should be aware that the source in question is regularly involved in spreading unreliable information.
  • Relevance of investigating hostile information operations in neighboring countries, as the Kremlin, known for employing local proxies, might be behind those as well.
  • Changing the definition of “information war”, which stipulates the existence of two sides, two the term “information aggression” that better describes Russian hostile influence, is advised.
  • Utter importance of avoiding “the trap of despair”, which is the first step in KGB’s playbook for destabilizing the target society. Followed by stages of crisis and normalization, demoralization is the longest and most crucial element, undermining the ability of population to think critically and have faith in the country.
  • Protection of the rights of journalists who adhere to the professional standards through the proposed bill. It is very important to avoid using the law to pressure reliable journalists. That is, the law should not be an instrument of political punishment. That is why the criminal liability part has to be very carefully considered and extensive consultations with the main actors in the media field are necessary.
  • Necessity to further develop and promote media literacy terms. The more people know what is fake news, disinformation etc. and the way to indentify it, the more chances Ukrainian society as a whole has in combating the hybrid agression.
  • Significance of the proposal to ban Russian businessmen from owning Ukrainian media outlets.

The need to take into account varying parties, both external and internal, to face the challenges of digital age, to minimize the influence business groups over media agenda and to offer strategic response to the strategic and complex threat — all of this is crucial for the new concept to be efficient. Its correct design is, however, followed by a task that is even more difficult — its correct implementation, which requires the institutional capacity the Ministry is yet to demonstrate.