Comparison of governmental approaches to counter Russian information influence in the Baltic states
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Numerous studies on information influence activities such as mis- and disinformation or inauthentic behaviour on social media have been published in recent years, mainly concentrating on the prevalence, characteristics and causes. Yet, comprehensive research of how governments manage this “information disorder” has remained largely on the sidelines, contributing to a dearth of knowledge when it comes to adequate responses to information influence activities. The study seeks to contribute to this literature by focusing on Baltic reactions to Russian information influence. The main aim of the thesis is to examine and compare Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian governmental approaches to responding to Russian information influence activities. Main strategic documents were analysed, and state officials interviewed to obtain a comprehensive understanding of how the Baltic states deal with information influence in general and which countermeasures the three countries have undertaken, concentrating on the setup of strategic communication, media literacy in formal education and media policy. In order to make sense of various strategies democracies might opt for, an analytical framework by Hellman and Wagnsson (2017) was used. The focus of the research is on governmental action, excluding media and third sector activities such as independent fact-checking or educational projects. The author argues that albeit in general the Baltic states approach countering Russian information influence similarly, the understandings diverge on the extent to which the state should regulate the media to achieve its goals. Compared to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania seek to actively shape the media environment, either through media support measures to encourage media literacy and raise awareness or by restricting access to Russian television channels to respond to incitements of hatred. Estonia, on the other hand, has fared better in developing Russian-language public media as an alternative to still influential Russia’s information space. More broadly, the author suggests that governments respond to information influence activities first by implementing regulations and secondly by raising awareness.
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