What is your role in your organisation?
The field of my academic interest is research and analysis of media and its role in political processes with the special focus on information warfare issues, propaganda and disinformation. I am a lecturer at Institute of International Relations and Political Science (IIRPS), Vilnius University, Lithuania. The Institute runs extensive programs on media studies and security studies.
What are the main resources developed by your organisation you’d be willing to share?
The IIRPS carries out the academic research related to media studies and geopolitical and security challenges in the Baltic region. I am happy to share the most recent publications and articles, as well as online public lectures. Please see the link: https://www.tspmi.vu.lt/en/publications/
Which are, in your opinion, the three biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation in your country?
In my opinion following issues will continue to pose great challenges to the security of the region and Europe wide:
- ongoing disinformation campaigns against the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battle groups in the Baltic States;
- Belarus centered disinformation campaigns aimed at the Belarusian protest movement;
- COVID19 related disinformation campaigns.
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?
When considering the Lithuanian information security and the society’s resilience it is essential to increase the information availability about Lithuania internationally. The international community should learn about the Lithuania’s practice in tackling – identifying, preventing, countering malign information campaigns. Secondly, the regional networks of expertise in countering multifaceted hostile information – cyber campaigns. Thirdly, consistent and holistic Media and Information literacy (MIL) programs should be integrated into the Lithuania education programs starting from the primary school.
What are the top three events or dates you have witnessed this year that have caused an intensification of disinformation activities?
There is nothing new about the timing of the disinformation campaigns in Lithuania. Traditionally it takes place and becomes intense during (and prior to) the celebration or commemoration dates important to the Lithuania’s collective memory:
- February 16 – Restoration of the State Day in 1918, our Independence Day;
- March 11 – Day of Declaration of Re-establishing Lithuania’s Independence.
- January 13 – The January Events (Lithuanian: Sausio įvykiai) took place in Lithuania between 11 and 13 January 1991 in the aftermath of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. As a result of Soviet military actions, 14 civilians were killed and 702 were injured.
Another disinformation campaign which will continue circulating for a longer period is all kind of fake information, conspiracy theories and rumors about Covid-19 pandemic, the vaccines and other.
In your opinion, which future three dates/events are likely to bring about the intensification of disinformation activities in 2020-2021?
In addition to the national dates of celebration and/or commemoration important to Lithuania’s statehood when the disinformation increase, it is expected that disinformation campaigns against Europe and the West will increase after the EU introduces new sanctions against the Kremlin after Navalny arrest and imprisoning.
What are the prevailing disinformation narratives you have observed in the media space this year.
This year the malign narrative related to the Covid- 19 pandemic will continue to dominate. We will observe the network of stories promoting all kinds of conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine and loads of fakes news, to be precise, – lies. The long standing malign narratives against NATO troops in Lithuania, other Baltic States and Poland will continue too.
Have you been relying on any fact-checking tools? If yes, please describe them or share the links.
For my research purpose I usually use visual checking and debunking sites: Bellingcat, Debunk.eu, EUvsDisinfo and other.
Would you like to highlight any of the disinformation cases you have witnessed/ discovered/ debunked?
‘Ghostwriter’ influence campaign, where unknown actors leverage website compromises and fabricated content to push narratives aligned with Russian security interests, exposed by US cyber security company Fireeye.
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 my opinion high quality education, first of all formal as well as non-formal, is the best solution to the strengthening of critical thinking and media literacy skills among society.
In Lithuania, a debunking project Debunk.eu is very successful in fighting disinformation and fake news.
Interview from February, 2021.