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Building Resilience to Foreign Malign Influence and Disinformation


Building resilience to foreign malign influence and disinformation is crucial for safeguarding global stability and democratic processes. Disinformation campaigns, often orchestrated by actors like the Kremlin, aim to undermine public trust in institutions, sow discord, and influence political outcomes. One sustaining factor of Foreign Influence and Malign Information (FIMI) is the complex networks of local enablers who leverage their economic influence to hijack political agendas and shape public opinion in target countries.

A robust and adaptive security approach, the monetization of disinformation, and social media platforms as vessels for foreign malign influence were among the main topics discussed at an international conference organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea on June 24, 2024.

Dr. Song Tae-Eun from the Korea National Diplomatic Academy emphasized the need for cyber scenarios in military exercises and legal frameworks to counter cyber campaigns. Dr. Song advocated for strategic communication centers among democratic nations for early warning and information sharing. CSD’s Todor Galev presented a study showing that 40% of Bulgarians believe in disinformation, with major discussions on military aid for Ukraine, Schengen membership, and the Eurozone. Dr. Galev suggested solutions like introducing different types of media financing, including through public-private partnerships, and building capacity for strategic communication among public institutions.

Cristian Pantazi, Editor in Chief of the Romanian Group 4 Media Freedom and Democracy, noted that in both Bulgaria and Romania, political figures and security services often control media for their own agendas, undermining media independence. He observed that, despite the prevalence of pro-Russian populist narratives in Romania, the country's negative perception of Russia forces these political parties to portray the West as equally corrupt to promote Russian influence. Vladimir Milenski, Director of the Information Center at the Ministry of Defense in Bulgaria, stated that disinformation is a symptom of our failures, and when we fail to communicate, disinformation appears, takes root, and thrives. Dr. Kim Taeyoung presented on cognitive warfare and how social engineering is used to manipulate people’s perception of reality. He also discussed case studies of complex cognitive terror attacks.

CSD’s Gloria Trifonova highlighted the role of military-related disinformation networks and outlined the activities of paramilitary organizations as part of the Kremlin’s toolkit of influence in Bulgaria. Kristina Tsabala from CSD presented on gender-based disinformation, particularly regarding Ukrainian female refugees. Such sentiments can lead to the desensitization to crime and the normalization of attacks against civilians and women in general. Georgi Angelov, a journalist from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, discussed the monetization of disinformation through platforms like Share for Pay that promise easy money for sharing disinformation. He outlined how disinformation has become a business and how it is possible to track some of its main players. These platforms significantly impact voting behavior and raise questions about media operations

International Conference "Building Resilience to Foreign Malign Influence and Disinformation"
Ruslan Stefanov, Program Director, Center for the Study of Democracy
Cho Ji I, Counselor, Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Bulgaria
Dr. Song Tae-Eun, Professor, Korea National Diplomatic Academy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dr. Todor Galev, Director of Research, Center for the Study of Democracy

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