Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Prompt and coordinated action needed to fight disinformation, experts say

Mar 09 2018

The Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank, has presented a report outlining ways to counter disinformation.

Although disinformation campaigns are not a new phenomenon in the political toolkit, Russia’s recent tactics and manipulation of social media, have presented governments with new challenges. The solution is a coherent and coordinated response from society as a whole and prompt action by the trans-Atlantic alliance.

An Atlantic Council event on Wednesday, March 7, included the following panelists:

Ambassador Daniel Fried, Distinguished Fellow, Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Dr. Jonathan Henick, Deputy Director, Global Engagement Center, US Department of State

H.E. David O’Sullivan, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States

Dr. Alina Polyakova, David M. Rubenstein Fellow – Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution

Ms. Corina Rebegea, Director, US-Romania Initiative and Fellow-in-Residence, Center for European Policy Analysis

 

Mr. Fried said the Western response to counter disinformation – which includes overt propaganda, social media manipulation and cyber hacking – must be aligned with democratic values and coordinated with the efforts of the governments, civil society and tech companies.

This type of societal collaboration should also be represented on the trans-Atlantic level, in the form of the “Counter-Disinformation Coalition,” which would be an informal coalition between the U.S. and E.U. governments and non-governmental actors who would develop common norms and best practices. “We are in this together”, said Fried, but acknowledging that Europe has been ahead of the U.S. on countering disinformation.

“It is time to stop admiring the problem and wringing our hands about it”, said Fried calling for prompt action.

Mr. O’Sullivan discussed the need for the public debate to expose disinformation tactics and misuse of social media, stressing the importance of a whole of society response” in building resilience to disinformation. “There is no silver bullet for governments to sort of pass a law which suddenly makes this problem go away”, said Sullivan.

Dr. Henick of the Global Engagement Agency, established in 2016 to lead U.S. efforts to fight terrorist and foreign propaganda, said that disinformation per se is not a new problem and various U.S. agencies have long been working on it. He dismissed recent claims in the press that his agency remains less active in countering Russian propaganda than was initially foreseen, due to low interest from the State Department and delayed financing. Henick said the shortly expected first $40 million tranches of a much-anticipated funding allocation will allow the agency to “redouble their efforts”, to invest in new technology and empower civil society actors with resources.

“We need to work with strengthening the independent media, to build up resistance, increase digital literacy”, said Henick, adding that debunking false information alone is not sufficient and that he did not support the counter-use of “troll farms”. “The solution to this problem is going to look nothing like the problem itself”, said Henick.

Dr. Polyakova said that, although Russia is at the center of the disinformation discussion, the recommendations provided in the Atlantic Council report are about building a long-term societal resistance to disinformation and interference. “Russia is a starting point, but this is really about much more than just one state actor. It is really about the resilience and resistance that we can build”, said Polyakova.

Ms. Rebegea said that while free speech is a basic right in the European Union, regulations also permit banning media outlets that spread hate speech. This was the case in Lithuania, which first banned Russian TV channel RTR Planeta for three months in 2015 on grounds of inciting hatred in their reporting on Ukraine.

“I think there are ways in which we can preserve democratic values and safeguards”, said Rebegea, “but at the same time to go against these bad actors”.

Among the measures of countering disinformation recommended by the Atlantic Council, is the need to clearly label Russian networks such as RT and their content as propagandistic by both the traditional and social media. Another measure is to stop spreading false news, for instance by having tech companies “mute” and “de-rank” untrustworthy and deceptive content and content from automated accounts. Ms. Polyakova said these measures would help prevent false information from “going viral”, whereas “no one knows where the information came from”. “These kinds of disinformation campaigns can be identified today and they [tech companies] can stop them at the beginning”, said Polyakova.

Some other recommendations outlined in the Atlantic Council report include:

  • the U.S. should create new governmental agencies with a focus on disinformation,
  • the U.S. needs to bring transparency to online political ads
  • Governments and tech companies should support, including financially, civil society organizations, such as StopFake, to expose disinformation.
  • Governments should implement programs on civic-education and training on media-literacy for the public, with support from civil-society groups and tech companies.

 

The report can be found on the Atlantic Council website.

By Valeria Jegisman

Although disinformation campaigns are not a new phenomenon in the political toolkit, Russia’s recent tactics and manipulation of social media, have presented governments with new challenges. The solution is a coherent and coordinated response from society as a whole and prompt action by the trans-Atlantic alliance.

An Atlantic Council event on Wednesday, March 7, included the following panelists:

Ambassador Daniel Fried, Distinguished Fellow, Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Dr. Jonathan Henick, Deputy Director, Global Engagement Center, US Department of State

H.E. David O’Sullivan, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States

Dr. Alina Polyakova, David M. Rubenstein Fellow – Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution

Ms. Corina Rebegea, Director, US-Romania Initiative and Fellow-in-Residence, Center for European Policy Analysis

 

Mr. Fried said the Western response to counter disinformation – which includes overt propaganda, social media manipulation and cyber hacking – must be aligned with democratic values and coordinated with the efforts of the governments, civil society and tech companies.

This type of societal collaboration should also be represented on the trans-Atlantic level, in the form of the “Counter-Disinformation Coalition,” which would be an informal coalition between the U.S. and E.U. governments and non-governmental actors who would develop common norms and best practices. “We are in this together”, said Fried, but acknowledging that Europe has been ahead of the U.S. on countering disinformation.

“It is time to stop admiring the problem and wringing our hands about it”, said Fried calling for prompt action.

Mr. O’Sullivan discussed the need for the public debate to expose disinformation tactics and misuse of social media, stressing the importance of a whole of society response” in building resilience to disinformation. “There is no silver bullet for governments to sort of pass a law which suddenly makes this problem go away”, said Sullivan.

Dr. Henick of the Global Engagement Agency, established in 2016 to lead U.S. efforts to fight terrorist and foreign propaganda, said that disinformation per se is not a new problem and various U.S. agencies have long been working on it. He dismissed recent claims in the press that his agency remains less active in countering Russian propaganda than was initially foreseen, due to low interest from the State Department and delayed financing. Henick said the shortly expected first $40 million tranches of a much-anticipated funding allocation will allow the agency to “redouble their efforts”, to invest in new technology and empower civil society actors with resources.

“We need to work with strengthening the independent media, to build up resistance, increase digital literacy”, said Henick, adding that debunking false information alone is not sufficient and that he did not support the counter-use of “troll farms”. “The solution to this problem is going to look nothing like the problem itself”, said Henick.

Dr. Polyakova said that, although Russia is at the center of the disinformation discussion, the recommendations provided in the Atlantic Council report are about building a long-term societal resistance to disinformation and interference. “Russia is a starting point, but this is really about much more than just one state actor. It is really about the resilience and resistance that we can build”, said Polyakova.

Ms. Rebegea said that while free speech is a basic right in the European Union, regulations also permit banning media outlets that spread hate speech. This was the case in Lithuania, which first banned Russian TV channel RTR Planeta for three months in 2015 on grounds of inciting hatred in their reporting on Ukraine.

“I think there are ways in which we can preserve democratic values and safeguards”, said Rebegea, “but at the same time to go against these bad actors”.

Among the measures of countering disinformation recommended by the Atlantic Council, is the need to clearly label Russian networks such as RT and their content as propagandistic by both the traditional and social media. Another measure is to stop spreading false news, for instance by having tech companies “mute” and “de-rank” untrustworthy and deceptive content and content from automated accounts. Ms. Polyakova said these measures would help prevent false information from “going viral”, whereas “no one knows where the information came from”. “These kinds of disinformation campaigns can be identified today and they [tech companies] can stop them at the beginning”, said Polyakova.

Some other recommendations outlined in the Atlantic Council report include:

  • the U.S. should create new governmental agencies with a focus on disinformation,
  • the U.S. needs to bring transparency to online political ads
  • Governments and tech companies should support, including financially, civil society organizations, such as StopFake, to expose disinformation.
  • Governments should implement programs on civic-education and training on media-literacy for the public, with support from civil-society groups and tech companies.

 

The report can be found on the Atlantic Council website.

By Valeria Jegisman

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.