How would you describe the mission and expertise of your organization in the field of media literacy/ critical thinking/ fact checking/ countering disinformation?

Our mission is to build up democratic societies’ resilience to malign information activities through training and education and to monitor and counter disinformation.

 

What are the main resources developed by your organization you’d be willing to share? (e.g. reports, analyses, scripts, educational materials, video clips, webinars… Please share the links.)

We are the network of civic activists who regularly monitor Lithuania’s information environment, focusing on social platforms and online media. This is our latest monitoring report: https://ibb.co/375vM0h. We are active members and often lead civic initiatives to counter hybrid threats in Europe and the Eastern Partnership countries.

 

Which are, in your opinion, the three biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation in your country?

  • The biggest and the most urgent task today is to start strategic communication of our own (positive) narratives, rather than focus only on debunking fake or malign information. The latter charge is significant but insufficient to counter hybrid threats. Critically thinking, citizens are groomed by teaching them their countries’ and world history. They understand the geopolitics, appreciate the democratic values, and are well educated.

Could you name three solutions that you implemented or else want to recommend as an advice how to counter disinformation, strengthen societies’ critical thinking skills and build civil resilience to disinformation?

  • Countering disinformation is a multidimensional activity that includes monitoring, identifying, and understanding the problem, making it public, and taking action. The education of the society and its segments plays here a critical role. Starting in 2018, we have been organizing training courses to train volunteers from all over the world in digital resilience. This training course has become a comprehensive and dynamic platform for capacity building, sharing best practices, experience, and knowledge to better tackle the Kremlin’s disinformation and propaganda. Res Publica permanently monitors disinformation campaigns, fake news, and hostile propaganda against democracy, using cutting edge technology and data analytics systems, supporting and coordinating the international volunteers’ groups involved in digital resilience.

What are the top three events or dates you have witnessed this year that have caused an intensification of disinformation activities?

  • Covid-19 pandemic,
  • 75th Anniversary of World War II,
  • Defender 2020 – NATO military exercises, which had to be canceled because of the Covid-19 epidemic.

In your opinion, which future three dates/events are likely to bring about the intensification of disinformation activities in 2020-2021?

  • Covid-19 pandemic’s 2nd wave,
  • US Presidential election,
  • Parliamentary elections in Lithuania,
  • The launch of the unsafe nuclear power Plant Ostrovets in Belarus and Russian-Belarus attempts to sell the electricity to Lithuania impede Lithuania’s plan to synchronize with the EU.

What are the prevailing disinformation narratives you have observed in the media space this year.

Master narratives remain the same:

  • Anti-EU — “the EU as a place of moral and economic decay,” “the EU is deeply anti-democratic,” “the EU is falling apart”,
  • Anti-NATO — “NATO, the insecurity alliance” and an aggressor,
  • Domestic “Failure”,
  • Anti-US — “American neo-colonialism”,
  • History — “Controlling the past”,
  • ‘Russophobia’ — “Russian threat as baseless hysteria”,

COVID-19 topics only support one or another master narrative, such as domestic “failure” or anti-Trans Athleticism.

Have you been relying on any fact-checking tools? If yes, please describe them or share the links.

We are using an online fact-checking tool based on artificial intellect solutions developed by our partner Debunk.eu. The details you can find: https://debunk.eu/

Would you like to highlight any of the disinformation cases you have witnessed/ discovered/ debunked?

We want to present a case study of a disinformation case debunked with our organization’s active involvement: https://euvsdisinfo.eu/report/german-tank-desecrated-jewish-cemetery-in-kaunas/.

In your opinion, who are the best performing actors – in your country, as well as in the EU – playing crucial roles in the field of media literacy today and why?

In a nutshell, no organization can be successful working alone. Countering disinformation and media literacy is a long term, consistent and comprehensive engagement requiring teamwork when both state and non-state institutions work together. Fortunately, Lithuania has good practice experience: the growing networks of NGOs active in formal and non-formal education; civic activists. Moreover, the mainstream media is very active in debunking fake news; investigative journalism is dynamic and growing; the country aims to make society’s whole approach fully functioning.

 

Are there any other points you wish to raise during this interview?

We wish that the EU member states develop long-term cooperation and networks and start positive narrative campaigns rather than be preoccupied with only describing fake news cases…

 

GIEDRIUS SAKALAUSKAS
Director of Res Publica – Civic Resilience Center
Sincere, goal oriented, reliable

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