Although it‘s an Ambiguous Evil, Will Corona virus Help to Clean up from Disinformation?

In the publication of this Website ‘Is it Just a Matter of Time when Moscow Will Start Blaming the Baltic Nations for Coronavirus, too? ‘ we talked about the actual possibility of Fake News on the topic of coronavirus in the …

In the publication of this Website ‘Is it Just a Matter of Time when Moscow Will Start Blaming the Baltic Nations for Coronavirus, too? ‘ we talked about the actual possibility of Fake News on the topic of coronavirus in the Baltic States. On 20 March there was a publication on the public domain of Lithuania that a day prior to hacking into two websites that have quite a moderate amount of auditorium, false news relating to COVID-19 were spread. The society was mislead by statements as if Raimundas Karoblis, Minister of National Defence, asked not to cancel the military practices Defender Europe 2020 of the USA, because the benefit of practices would be significantly lower than the risk relating to the spread of coronovirus. Thus, as if it was decided not to cancel movement of the USA fighters in Lithuania.
The next morning the false news were spread via simulated letters of the employee of the Lithuanian Armed Forces to the Ministry of Defence of Poland, headquarters of NATO, other foreign institutions, employees of the Ministry of National Defence (MND) and Lithuanian Internet media. The letter was as if written by Laimis Bartikas, Head of the Strategic Communication and Military Public Relations Department of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The letter mentioned a meeting of the Defence Board that actually was held on 13 March, during which as if a decision was made to continue Defender Europe 2020 despite the threat of COVID-19 pandemic. Besides, there were also false statements that Lithuania decided not to provide information to the media about movement of the American armed forces in order to avoid panic.
Expectations of the authors of ‘Fake News’ event failed flat. Every institution that received the letters double-checked the fact and after they got convinced that was a lie, informed Lithuanians about this fact. In reaction to disinformation the MND indicated that it was intended for instigation of fair and mistrust in Lithuanian state institutions and NATO allies. We should remind that the Pentagon on 16 March announced about its decision not to send troops to practices and cancelled transfer of its staff and military technology to Europe.
Head of the Strategic Communication and Military Public Relations Department, who has become the target of Internet ‘trolls’, pointed out that a stream of disinformation relating to the spread of COVID-19 was increasing. Lithuanian Armed Forces have already registered about 150 different information incidents in Lithuanian, English, Russian and other languages since February.    
The European Union (EU) External Action Centre also warned on 18 March that Russian public media was carrying a campaign of disinformation on the topic of coronavirus in order to fuel crisis in the West. The report of the Service indicated that almost 80 cases of disinformation about COVID-19 have been registered in the special database of the EU since 22 January. The same report also mentioned about a case in Lithuania when Fake News were spread as if an American soldier was infected with the coronavirus after hacking to several Internet news portals.
According to the division of the EU External Action Service EUvsDisinfo, pro-Kremlin ‘trolls’ do not try to convince by disinformation but try to cause confusion by producing allegedly alternative facts – for instance, the fact that EU became the focus of coronovirus spread proves that democracy is not effective. Or it implies that coronavirus was developed by people and the West turned it into a weapon. One of the most popular Fake News that was spread in Russian, Arabic, Italian and English is that coronavirus was developed in laboratories of the NATO. It was also announced as if with the use of pandemic they try to reduce the number of population in the World and as if the global elite will introduce tyranny by using it. Another way is to deny pandemic at all.      
The fact that ‘trolls’ of the Kremlin are champing was confirmed once again by Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, who during the press conference held in Washington on 20 March reminded that the USA has been tracking a flow of disinformation on the topic of coronavirus from Russia, China and Iran for a long time. According to the assessment of the Secretary of State its goal is to encumber the USA from fighting pandemic. By the way, part of observers of the USA does not preclude that the Kremlin may have specific goals by disinformation, for instance, it is plotting one more foreign expansion. The New York Times had concerns how the Kremlin can use fears regarding corona virus more efficiently than four years ago in the United States presidential election campaign.
The goal is to encourage distrust in experts, health care systems and people, who are busy with selfless job in order to help people suffering from the virus. Having become topic number one on the public domain pandemic of COVID-19 has already changed the global agenda and life of every person. In the situation where trust, cooperation and persistence are the most important, disinformation directly contributes to killing people. The phenomenon called infodemia is already going along with pandemic – this is the wave of rumours, fabrications and conspiracy theories. The World Health Organization (WHO) called the fight with infomedia as one of four priorities in its information strategies.   
Marius Laurinavičius, an analyst of Vilnius Institute for Political Analysis, indicated that sometimes government of Russia or China not necessarily create disinformation by themselves. The statement is proved by the subject that shifted from one international public domain to another on 13 March that the corporations and removed almost 300 entries relating to Russia and pages that were intended for making influence on users of social networks in the United States (according to , 65 percent of page subscribers lived in the United States), mostly black population.     
The exceptional feature of this campaign is that administration of these pages relating to Saint Petersburg Internet Research Agency relating to the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is called ‘Vladimir Putin’s chef’, better known as ‘troll factory’, was trusted to administrators in Africa, Ghana and Nigeria, from which demagogies on topics of Afro-American history in the USA, racial, civil rights, sexual minorities, etc. have been broadcasted. Governments of Ghana and Nigeria managed to disclose the African version of ‘troll factory’ and its links with Russia. On 6 February Ghana Security services carried out a raid to the building of a non-governmental organization Eliminating Barriers for the Liberation of Africa that was rented in the capital Accra. It turned out that it is managed by the emigrant from this country living in Russia. Representative of the Security service confirmed to CNN that the organization used to get financing from Russia. The working day of the ‘trolls’ used to start in the afternoon and continued up to late night, trying to adjust to time zones of the USA.    
By the way, five American senators instigated the EU to apply sanctions against V.Putin’s chef on the eve of this fact. In the US they have been in effect since 2018 when conclusions of the special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who investigated the United States presidential election, were announced. Y. Prigozhin threatens (only in his motherland) to award 50 billion US dollars from the government of US through court. Probably, for moral damage, what its moral de facto is we already discussed in the article published on this website ‘Vladimir Putin Chef‘s’ Self-control Test to Lithuania’. 
We can repeat – nothing new. At some time when the number of AIDS cases was increasing the Soviet Union intelligence decided to use the disease and created a false story that it was spread by a the US Biological Research Laboratory located in the Maryland state. Indian newspaper of pro-communist opinion was involved in spreading disinformation that was re-published by the Soviet newspaper Liternaturnaja gazeta that citied the foreign press. As it should be, an ‘expert’ was involved for making false news. A bio-physician Jacob Segal, who was working in Humboldt University in Eastern Germany, was introduced as a French scholar. Actually, this citizen of the USSR has not made any tests of viruses. The USA tries to deny falsifications, however it spread already in 60 countries. 
According to calculations of Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic research at John Hopkins University, author of the book ‘Active Measures: the Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare’ that will come into light in coming weeks, Soviet special services (whose direct mental inheritors are and are declared by the analogous Russian institutions) have carried out over ten thousand operations relating to disinformation. According to the scholar, after getting familiar with the documents it is obvious that majority of those who carried out them, officers of special services were cynics, who did not believe in their represented public organization system, who with big joy  were looking for weak points in the societies of the West and trying to exploit them. It ended like ended.
Thus, alongside exposure disclosed at the beginning of the text, I would like to finish with another fact that was assessed positively (let’s hope, as a tendency). In the Lithuanian public domain it was already announced in the middle of March that Pervyj Baltijskij kanal (PBK) was terminating the copyright activities in the Baltic States. This megaphone of the Kremlin demonstrated the ‘job’ of the news agency in our region after making of programs was stopped. In Latvia there will be no Latvijskoje vremia and Estonians will not be fed by Novosti Estoniji. Vilnius Regional Administrative Court in 2013 suspended broadcast of PBK in Lithuania based on the address of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Committee after it broadcasted a false propagandistic programme about 13 January. In 2014 Latvian National Electronic Media Council imposed 3,600 Euro fine on BPK for provision of unilateral and unfair information on events in Ukraine.
Let’s hope this first swallow will not be the last one. Just something good in the evil of this threatening coronavirus. By the way, an adequate comment to the notice about Internet hacking cases mentioned at the beginning of this text (the language not corrected): ‘They managed to hack only 2 small portals, not to mention how the number of trolls from Leningrad reduced…’.   
Arūnas Spraunius

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Autorius: Voras Online