EU alleges Russian disinformation ahead of elections

Alleged Russian interference includes the use of disinformation, deepfake videos, and the creation of fake websites. Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok have announced measures to address these concerns.

EU flags in front of European Commission

European governments are raising alarms over alleged Russian disinformation campaigns as the EU prepares for its parliamentary elections from June 6-9. They claim Moscow, alongside pro-Kremlin actors, is engaged in a broad interference effort to discredit European governments and destabilise the EU. Key tactics allegedly include the spread of manipulated information, deepfake videos, and fake news websites designed to resemble legitimate sources. For instance, the Czech Republic has identified as a leading platform for pro-Russian influence operations, allegedly funded by Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

Russia, however, vehemently denies these accusations, labelling them as part of a Western-led information war aimed at tarnishing its reputation. Russian officials argue that the West is suppressing alternative viewpoints and has banned Russian state media such as RIA Novosti and Izvestia. They contend that the West’s intolerance for dissenting narratives fuels these allegations, positioning Russia as a fabricated enemy.

European officials also point to the sophisticated use of ‘deepfakes’ and ‘doppelganger’ sites in these disinformation efforts. Deepfakes, created with AI to produce realistic fake media, have been used to spread false narratives, such as the fake recording of Slovak politician Michal Simecka discussing vote rigging. Doppelganger sites, mimicking legitimate news sources, have disseminated false information, including fabricated stories about France’s policies.

In response, the EU leaders emphasise the need for a strong, democratic Europe, while new regulations under the Digital Services Act demand swift action against illegal content and deceptive practices on social media platforms. Companies like Meta, Google, and TikTok have announced measures to combat disinformation before the elections.