Russian groups targeted EU election with fake news 1

Russian groups targeted EU election with fake news

June 20, 2019 | Research

Russian groups carried out a widespread disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the European Parliament election, according to an analysis by the European Commission and the European Union’s diplomatic service.

These digital tactics were aimed at undermining the EU’s democratic legitimacy and used hot-button topics to sow public anger, based on evidence collected by Brussels-based institutions in a report released on June 14.

“The evidence collected revealed a continued and sustained disinformation activity by Russian sources aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences,” the analysis said. “These covered a broad range of topics, ranging from challenging the Union’s democratic legitimacy to exploiting divisive public debates on issues such as of migration and sovereignty.”

The attribution to “Russian sources” is exceptional, as the EU is generally cautious to point fingers at foreign countries when commenting publicly on cybersecurity attacks.

But lately the Kremlin has come under increased attention for attempted digital assaults on international institutions in The Hague late last year, and suspicion has grown among Western officials that Russia was behind a hack that targeted the EU’s diplomatic mission in Moscow — an incident that became public last week.

As part of widespread “fake news” around the election, domestic political groups and politicians also borrowed heavily from tactics initially used by Russia-backed groups, including efforts to sway discussion on social media, the report said. The goal, according to the EU analysis, was to promote extreme views and polarize national political debates ahead of last month’s vote.

The analysis said it is too soon to conclude whether the online campaigns had influenced turnout or voters’ choice of party.