Russia's use of disinformation and information manipulation
On this page
- Canada's efforts to combat Russian disinformation and information manipulation
- Impact of Russian disinformation on Canadians
- Russia's disinformation operation
- Russia's pattern of spreading disinformation
- Related links
Canada's efforts to combat Russian disinformation and information manipulation
The Government of Canada is concerned with the Kremlin’s use of disinformation, especially surrounding its invasion of Ukraine. Canada works closely with international partners to counter Russian disinformation in Ukraine and the region, while upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. Canada counters Kremlin-sponsored disinformation by:
- Monitoring information space
- Raising awareness on international stage
- Exposing disinformation and information manipulation
- Coordinating international response
- Sanctioning disinformation agents
In addition, Canada supports programming that enhances strategic communications capacity and builds the societal resilience in the face of disinformation. Canada also supports educational programs for grassroots technology and civil society groups who are at the front lines of countering disinformation in their communities.
Impact of Russian disinformation on Canadians
Russian disinformation impacts Canadians. When the information space is flooded with disinformation, it is more difficult to discern fact from fiction. Extended exposure to disinformation could shape Canadians' views on current events and polarize opinions. Exposure to disinformation can undermine trust in democratic institutions and exacerbate societal divisions within Canadian society.
The Government of Canada shares tips and tools to spot disinformation on Online disinformation.
Russia's disinformation operation
For many years, the Russian government has used widespread disinformation operations to advance its national and geopolitical goals. For example, it used disinformation to justify its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the continued backing of pro-Russian separatists in Donbas.
How Russia spreads disinformation
Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem spreads false narratives through many channels:
- Official communication: The Kremlin's officials develop and spread erroneous or manipulated content through its official government communications, such as news releases, speeches, and social media posts. This gives an appearance of credibility to false narratives.
- State-sponsored media: Russian state-funded media, like RT and Sputnik, present themselves around the world as fact-based media. However, they inject pro-Kremlin propaganda into public discourse seeking to sway opinion and influence foreign policy in Russia’s favour.
- Social media: Pro-Russian groups will hire media and social media influencers to create and share disinformation narratives. These actors tailor the content to regional contexts and publish in local languages. This creates a challenge for social media platforms to detect and remove disinformation.
- Proxy and unattributed sources: Spreading disinformation through proxy and unattributed sources provides plausible deniability for the Kremlin, while introducing and spreading disinformation. Grey media, which blurs the line between journalism and propaganda, makes it challenging for audiences to discern between unbiased reporting and manipulated information.
Why Russia spreads disinformation
Combatting foreign disinformation and information manipulation outlines many reasons why bad actors spread disinformation or manipulate information.
The Kremlin spreads disinformation to build support for its domestic and foreign policy objectives, promote its influence around the world, and discredit its critics. It also aims to spread confusion, distrust, and fear, domestically and abroad, making the audience question factual information coming from official and mainstream sources.
Russia's disinformation practices foster an information environment where disinformation and information manipulation can flourish both online and offline. These practices allow the Kremlin to confuse people in Russia and around the world and suppress ordinary Russian citizens’ civic engagement.
Russia's pattern of spreading disinformation
Over the years, Russia has passed laws and restrictions to repress dissent and control the information landscape. These laws and restrictions enable Russia to:
- Block internet content
- Imprison journalists, media workers and activists
- Brand nongovernmental organizations as "undesirable" or “foreign agents” and banning their operations inside Russia
- Detain, charge, or prosecute thousands of ordinary Russian citizens for spreading “fake news.”
Russian disinformation in its illegal invasion of Ukraine
The Kremlin continues to use disinformation to justify and garner support for its illegal, unprovoked, and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine. Russia conceals, blurs, and fabricates information to gain military advantage, demoralize Ukrainians, divide allies, and sow confusion and division.
On Countering disinformation with facts, you will find a sample of the many lies spread by the Russian regime about its invasion of Ukraine, along with fact-based information.
Government of Canada
- GEC Special Report: Russia's Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda (U.S. Department of State)
- EUvsDisinfo Russian disinformation database (European Union)
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