Did foreign sources influence the Estonian elections?


Since last autumn, Propastop has been keeping an eye on any foreign influencing attempts on the Parliamentary elections. Based on the findings of Finnish experts, we compiled a list of influencing methods that we were worried would be used in Estonia. Today let us see if our fears were right.

Communication in Kremlin channels
The survey conducted by the monitoring company, Meedius leaves no doubt that media under the influence of the Kremlin had a clear preference among Estonian political parties. There was a lot talk about Keskerakond (Centre party) which were very positively compared to other political parties. Let us deal with this one-sided view of the Kremlin as a compass or a guide to local Russian-speaking voters.

We consider this one-sided view not so much from prescribed Kremlin propagandists but more from the good relations between Russian-speaking candidates and with the afore mentioned media. The Russian press is probably used to talking about the Keskerakond as a party suitable for Russian-speaking Estonian residents.

The election results show that this influence method did not succeed.

The leaking of compromising information
During the election, compromising information affecting Estonian politicians, such as the discovery of former plagiarism by Rainar Vakrat and Anastassia Kovalenko, became known. This was a case of good Estonian investigative journalism; there is no sign that this information was leaked to the media from across the border.

Activities of Trolls
We discovered activities on the part of trolls in connection with fake news circulating in and from Narva. Due to this incident, there occurred an uncovering and closing of a network of fake accounts, which was a huge victory for Propastop. This was achieved through the cooperation of volunteers, Postimees and the State Chancellery. The trolls were contained before their actions could have caused any great damage. To date, it has not been clear who exactly was behind these networks. Several signs point to a Russian-speaking initiative group as well as Russia. For example, the postings were characterized by inaccurate Estonian language, as well as several fake accounts were associated with Vkontakte environment accounts in Russia. At the same time, before the elections, Estonian political parties also tried to influence the voters with the use of fake accounts, Perhaps some trolls were associated with this as well.

The activities of influence agents
There are no examples or evidence that Russian-funded individuals were actively involved in electoral propaganda in Estonia.

Hidden purchasing of advertising in social media
There are no examples of such activities.

The street ads at Narva road streetcar stops were the most provocative of the past elections. The scandal was not organized abroad; it was the creation of a local political party, Estonia 200. Russian propaganda media took this incident very seriously and accused Estonia of segregating ethnic groups. The incident-related media attention was sort lived and the provocation did not become a burning issue in the elections.

There were cases of influence, but fortunately our fears, that the Estonian elections would be dealt with just as actively as the USA Presidential elections, the Brexit vote or the French elections were not met. The intervention was casual, inactive and lukewarm.

Pictures: screenshot of the text on fakes news, home page of claudius9uk/Flickr/CC