Propaganda in the year 2019


Propastop’s editorial board looked at last year’s propaganda. Here are the highlights.

At the beginning of the year, the joint action of Propastop and Postimees continued to unveil and stop the spread of hashtag #ESTexitEU. By mid-January, both the campaign from the administrators of the Facebook group, Estoners as well as the group itself were closed down.

To complement the network of Estonian activists involved in Kremlin manipulations that were revealed in 2018, we also reviewed related Social Media channels through which Kremlin ideas are disseminated. At the end of the year, we saw these channels active in organizing and supporting the protest in Keila.

2019 was extremely active with propaganda incidents. During the year, the Russian media-monitoring tool, Propamon posted record highs. A number of statements received considerable propaganda coverage.  From Delfi’s journalist, Vahur Koorits to Speaker of the House, Henn Põlluaas statement that 5% of Estonian territory continues to be occupied by Russia.

In 2019, we also updated the Kremlin narrative overview, where we highlighted current narratives about Estonia. In contrast, in September Estonia succeeded in having their own narrative gaining access to the extremely closed Russian media.

„2019 was an election year for Estonia, with elections in both the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) and the European Parliament. In February, we published a survey on the coverage of Estonian political parties in the Russian media and in March, we reviewed whether Estonia’s elections were influenced.

In March, we launched Propastop’s Russian-language Social Media channels on Facebook, Odnoklassnik and VKontakte environments.

The year 2019 also included the development and significance of deepfake manipulation techniques. In addition, it is worth noting the development of Tik Tok, a popular Social Media environment for young people.

In March, the Europe-wide Media Literacy Week established a planned tradition during the week on focusing on media education and critical thinking for the first time.

Last year, we compiled and published both an on-line small form supplement that helps you understand the various Estonian-language digital publications available on the Internet, as well as a more comprehensive whitelist of neutral Russian-language news sites in the world.

During the year, we gave readers an overview of the fight against propaganda activities of several countries. For example, in May we wrote about China as an awakening propaganda giant as well as the activities of Lithuania, Slovakia and other countries in fighting propaganda.

The launch of a public initiative to limit the spread of Sputnik and Baltnews was certainly very important to Propastop last year. This was preceded by the activities of Lithuania and Latvia. In July, we also saw Baltnews „ coming out of the closet“ when the propaganda publication revealed on its website that it was affiliated with Russia Today.

Over the year, we were able to write about a number of Kremlin propaganda initiatives of their own, whose effects are dubious but their inventiveness and output were noteworthy. In July, we wrote about a propaganda attack threat from the sea. In August, we published a story about a Kremlin backed propaganda camp for young people, which was also attended by Estonian children. At the end of the year, we wrote about a series of propaganda concerts planned in the Baltic nations. We also wrote last year about a network of robot videos created for Youtube distributing Kremlin propaganda.

In 2019, Propastop succeeded in interviewing David Patrikarakos, author of the book “War with 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century.”

One of the most important books on Kremlin influence activities in 2019 was Jessika Aro’s book „Putin’s trolls: trues stories from the frontlines of the Russian information war“ published in the second half of the year, which reportedly will be published in Estonian as well.

The year 2019 also introduced a new word „baltofoobia“.

We will continue to see developments in many of the above events in 2020 and will do our best to bring them to Propastop readers operatively.

Happy New Year!

Home page photo: Mark O’ Cúlar / Flickr / CC