The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, after fourteen months evaluating the Intelligence Community’s work on Kremlin interference in the American election, announced on May 16 that the foreign effort was “extensive” and “unprecedented.” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the Committee’s Vice Chairman concluded that “one thing is already abundantly clear – we have to do a better job in the future if we want to protect our elections from foreign interference.”
How does one go about doing that? In an effort to find out, we interviewed officials and academics from eleven countries, asking them how they go about defending their elections, what the U.S. should learn from them, and what keeps them up at night. Country by country, we’re going to share their advice here at FDRfoundation.org. Up first: Denmark!
It turns out the Danes were already paying attention to us. “The real wake-up call for Denmark was in 2016, when we saw the coordinated Russian influence campaign that targeted the US election, Jesper Møller Sørensen, Political Director at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained. “This was an example of the whole Russian toolbox of active measures which we need to counter with democratic means.”
The Danes, like many others, suggested a focus on education and coordination. Helping the general public understand that sometimes “fake news” is actually fake news is key. “In the end,” said Sørensen, “psychological resilience comes down to education.” “In our view an important part of education is also making public the ways influence campaigns are conducted and engage openly in these debates.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. (for now) lacks the Dane’s superpower: trust in institutions. “We have a well-educated and informed population, Sørensen noted, “but the greatest strength the Danes possess is the high amount of trust toward our government and institutions in general. This makes it harder to sow distrust and polarize debates.” Distrustful and polarized nations, like America, are easier to manipulate with disinformation.
Another Danish superpower is their ability to coordinate with friendly neighbors. “Close cooperation with like-minded countries is crucial to exchange experiences about the threat, said Sørensen, “we are engaged in a well-established and extensive cooperation with the Nordic and Baltic countries on this issue.” Can America do this?
Awareness, education, coordination: advice from Denmark for defending our 2018 elections.
By Nina Jankowicz, in “The Wilson Quarterly”
The most illuminating conversations I’ve had about Russian disinformation have not been with ex-Cold Warriors, Russia hands, or government officials. They have been with the people that – according to many of those I just listed – are purveyors of disinformation themselves.
“I don’t believe in fighting [against] information. That’s what the communists did,” Jaroslav Plesl, the editor-in-chief of Dnes, the Czech Republic’s second-largest daily newspaper, told me in January 2017, just after the Czech government unveiled a new center to fight terrorism and so-called “hybrid threats,” including disinformation.
I caught a lot of flak for publishing a quote from that conversation in an editorial on how to fight fake news. A Czech friend in the anti-disinformation field told me that while he didn’t think Plesl was on the Kremlin payroll, he might as well be, given all he and his publication do to amplify the Russian state’s narratives.
My friend won’t be happy to find out that on my last trip to Prague, I met with an editor at Parlamentní Listy, one of the most popular fringe media outlets in the country. It is often accused of having Kremlin ties. Whether or not that’s true, Jan Rychetský, the editor with whom I spoke, described his employer’s strategy very simply: “We try to speak to the people that no one from the mainstream media speaks to.” …
Read the rest of Nina Jankowicz’ piece in “The Wilson Quarterly,” here:
Concerned with foreign interventions in your elections? In your news? Do you trust the media? Should you?
You may be surprised to learn the FDR Foundation and Adams House are on the cutting edge of the struggle of democracy against disinformation. Come by to chat informally with Jed Willard about current trends in international media manipulation, defensive media monitoring and analysis, and counter propaganda.
This is an interactive discussion, limited to 14, undergraduates only if numbers allow. RSVP here:
(There is an RSVP option for those who cannot make this time slot but are interested in future events on this topic – make sure to indicate your interest even if you can’t make it!)
Date: 11/13/2017 (Mon.)
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm EDT
Location: FDR Suite, B-17, Adams House
Jed Willard is Director of Global Engagement at the the FDR Foundation. His work here honors the 32nd American President’s legacy by pursuing solutions to current global challenges while keeping in mind their historical origins. Over the past decade, Willard has been pleased to consult to a number of governments and other international actors, helping them to understand prevalent and emerging narratives – the drivers of public opinion and sentiment – and creating strategies and structures to effectively engage citizens around the globe. His current efforts focus on adaptation to climate change, coping with disinformation, and revitalizing faith in liberal democracy.
Willard is a native of New Orleans, with a Bachelors Degree in History and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Harvard.