FAKE NEWS & PROPAGANDA
Propaganda is a term for the persuasive techniques used to disseminate an ideology or doctrine and to encourage the target audience to adopt a set of behaviours. Throughout the 20th century, certain ruling regimes institutionalised propaganda to manipulate the masses.
Nowadays, propaganda is primarily used by governments to stymie the freedom of the press. In a 2017 report (link), UNESCO expressed its concern about the rise in attacks on the media in the form of propaganda and fake news. Some governments use these disinformation techniques to ‘denigrate, intimidate, and threaten the media, including by stating that the media is “the opposition” or is “lying”’.
Anti-media propaganda from governments has also been observed in the Balkan region. The Courrier des Balkans has noted that in many countries, “the distortion of facts is used as a weapon against independent journalists, civil society, and political opponents to discredit them”.
CASE IN POINT: FAKE NEWS USED AGAINST JOURNALISTS IN MOLDOVA
During the 2019 legislative elections in Moldova, high-ranking officials contributed to propaganda and disinformation campaigns targeting independent media. According to the Courrier des Balkans, this state-supported fake news reached 54,000 users via fake Facebook and Instagram accounts.
One target of this fake news was Cornelia Cozonac, who heads up the Center for Investigative Journalism of Moldova (CIJM), which covers corruption scandals. A group of ‘trolls’ cloned her account and posted a number of messages under her name to attempt to discredit her reporting. In the same way, cyberattacks were launched against the CIJM website, which publishes investigations into Moldovan electoral candidates.
The propaganda campaign even garnered a reaction from Facebook. The company published a press release stating that ‘although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review found that some of this activity was linked to employees of the Moldovan government’.