Joint Strategy for a Civil Movement to Resist Russian Information Aggression

Self reflection is the antidote to Russian hybrid warfare, information operations and terrorism.

This joint strategy for a civil movement to resist Russian information aggression has been developed by the participants of the project “Self-help groups against the infodemic”  supported by the European Union through the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation and it is based on our practical experience. The project specifically addresses Russian disinformation about COVID-19 pandemic aka Russian infodemic

The practical application of this strategy might be useful for counteracting other types of Russian information operations in Ukraine.

Main objective of this strategy is promotion of information hygiene as a tool for preservation of cognitive health in Ukrainian society. 

Version 1.0, published on August 15, 2021

Цей текст українською

Russian infodemic – WHY

According to the WHO definition, “an infodemic is too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak. It causes confusion and risk-taking behaviors that can harm health. It also leads to mistrust in health authorities and undermines the public health response. An infodemic can intensify or lengthen outbreaks when people are unsure about what they need to do to protect their health and the health of people around them.” 

Russian Federation is waging the information war against Ukraine using the same approach not limited to the disease outbreak, but literally about any security related issues, including cognitive security. And there are no indications they are planning or willing to stop. 

Resilience to Russian Federation information war is the prerequisite to sustainable peace in Ukraine.

The strategy is addressed to anyone who does not require additional explanation to what is written above.

Theory of Change

IF WE engage the stakeholders into building a mental border with Russian Federation
THEN the society and the state becomes more resilient to Russian information warfare
BECAUSE the stakeholders spread less Russian infodemic

WE are the strategy developers and whoever shares this objective

Mental border (with Russian Federation) is the ability of a person to detect the malicious information created by the Russian Federation.

Malicious Information is one that incites destructive behavior and total mistrust to everything except the source and or Russian Federation, promotes permanent frustration, encourages personal health decisions based on misinformation and conspiracies.

Activities – WHAT we can do

CREATE A GROUP

Don’t fight alone, find allies in your closest circle of friends, family, co-workers, neighbors. Form a group of a manageable size (5-25 people) and keep it communicating regularly online, offline or both.

Together with a group:

Live and LEARN

Programming (in broad sense)

Neuroscience

Theory of information and communication

Languages or at least how to use google translate to receive information from the original sources

… and whatever you consider important for the cognitive health and information hygiene

DISCUSS

Information

Social processes

Your fears and concerns

Group rules and plans

LISTEN and differentiate

Quality music

Words of the songs you hear

Sounds of the nature around

Human languages

UNDERSTAND your reactions

Redefine good feelings from those enforced by propaganda to your intrinsic emotions. 

Take this free course to understand the basics https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being   

Discuss is with the group, encourage others to do it

Keep it practicing

ASK for more

Switch from “question everything” mode to asking meaningful questions from the knowledgeable sources

Refrain from traditional Russian questions “who is to blame” and WTF

Use fake-check flower creatively

Find reliable experts

Learn how to use search online in different languages 

ENJOY and cherish

Freedom from fear 

Freedom of communication

Freedom of creativity

New opportunities, experiences, knowledge, emotions

Detect changes 

Learn how to memorize good moments and stay in them

SHARE YOUR STORY

Become a newsmaker for your group, your family and your friends

Once you are confident, start spreading the news and the knowledge and experience outside your group. Below is the list of stakeholders we consider to be the most important to share information hygiene with.

Outcome challenge  

The main objective of our interaction with all stakeholders is to help the Ukrainian civil servants to stop sharing Russian malicious information.

Our boundary partners stop sharing Russian infodemic and help us to influence the civil servants.

Stakeholders – WHO to work with

Outcome challenges for specific stakeholders:

For media influencers, bloggers and vloggers to promote the idea of information hygiene.

For educators to analyze the content of manuals and other educational materials allowed by the Ministry of Education and Science in order to find the Russian malicious information and actively protest the usage of such content in education.

For artists and sportspersons to stop spreading the narrative that culture and sport is “not in the politics”

For sport managers to develop protocols for country representation abroad and standards acceptable behaviour.

For managers of public transportation services (taxi, buses, trains, planes, etc) to offer their staff training and standards of not spreading the Russian media content and to understand how this content boosts the Russian information influence.

For religious leaders to understand the influence of Russian malicious information and help their parishes to do it.

For medical professionals to understand the concept of cognitive health and share it with their patients.

For administrators of groups in social media services to introduce the group rules that prevent spreading Russian malicious information.

For people involved in music education to promote alternatives to Russian pop-music, encourage listening and performing songs in different languages, in different styles and to promote polyphony and classical music. For people involved in music broadcasting and event management  to promote such music especially for small kids.

For business associations to promote usage of quality non intrusive instrumental music in public and medical services and develop standards of acoustic hygiene.

For HR professionals to promote media literacy and information hygiene as advantageous skills for the market.

For Human Rights Defenders to detect and map discriminatory content within Russian information

For Civil Society Organizations to advocate the changes in government policies and protocols regarding Russian malicious information.

Progress markers

You see and hear considerably less information and media content from Russian Federation.

Civil servants share less media content from Russian Federation.

More women are visible in counteraction to Russian influence, especially in the context of quality of public services – medical, educational, cultural.

Gender lens of the conflict

Through communication channels and networks, Russian Federation managed to enforce domestically and tries to export to Ukraine the following artificial social norms:

  • Acceptability and romanticizing of criminal behavior for men
  • Human suffering as a norm and a virtue, especially for women
  • Acceptability of domestic violence against women and kids
  • Acceptability of violence as a mean of defending one’s own interests
  • Tolerance of ill-treatment of people with disabilities
  • Acceptance of public hostility against sexual and gender minorities

Gender is used by Russian propaganda in the information war against Ukraine to confirm the basic thesis that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” and therefore the gender norms are similar. 

These norms are spread in Ukraine predominantly via media production like songs, soap operas, movies, cartoons, comedy and other content, which cannot be blocked by legal means. Such content is prevalent in the pre-school kids segment. 

Quality gender conflict analysis of Russian Information war against Ukraine is needed.

Risks – WHEN the opportunities and threats arise 

Potential triggers and trends that can influence the outcomes

Further spread of COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine for at least until Summer 2022 due to very low vaccination rate and speed. Russian infodemic will continue and will be intensified. This time is ideal for practical implementation of this strategy because it is possible to work proactively with the information influences. – High probability, high impact

Local elections in some parts of Ukraine, where Russia could try to promote their candidates and narratives, which could be interesting for the purposes of monitoring. – High probability, low impact

Russia intensifies war against Ukraine, occupies more territory, kills more people. The activities proposed could be used to lower the psychological impact of the war and help the victims. – Medium probability, high impact

Russian annexation of Belarus may lead to an influx of migrants from there, some of those may become allies in implementation of this strategy. – Medium probability, medium impact

Further deterioration of observance of human rights and political freedoms in Russia may lead to an influx of migrants from there who will be trying to promote the idea of “better Russia” in Ukraine, should they be given access to mass media, they can influence the implementation of strategy negatively. At the same time their narratives could be easily monitored and compared to the Russian state narratives. – Low probability, medium impact

WHERE do we work

This strategy was created and applied in Ukraine and by Ukrainians abroad. 

Its elements could be also applied to the occupied territories of Ukraine. 

There is a probability that some elements of this strategy could be implemented in Moldova and Georgia, however this needs further research.

Resources needed – HOW we can work

Successful implementation of this strategy requires resources for 

  • Education
  • Monitoring
  • Advocacy
  • Awareness raising
  • Management of distributed coordination

Ideally it could be implemented by the network of CSO. Maidan Monitoring Information Center contributes to building this network.

Glossary

Cognitive health — the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember — is an important component of performing everyday activities. Cognitive health is just one aspect of overall brain health.  https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults 

Information hygiene – careful evaluation of the information that one is consuming and disseminating. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/22205/information+hygiene 

Infodemic – An infodemic is too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak. It causes confusion and risk-taking behaviors that can harm health. It also leads to mistrust in health authorities and undermines the public health response. An infodemic can intensify or lengthen outbreaks when people are unsure about what they need to do to protect their health and the health of people around them.  https://www.who.int/health-topics/infodemic#tab=tab_1 

Mental border (with Russian Federation) is the ability of a person to detect the malicious information created by the Russian Federation.

Malicious Information is one that incites destructive behavior and total mistrust to everything except the source and or Russian Federation, promotes permanent frustration, encourages personal health decisions based on misinformation and conspiracies.

Russian values are defined in #91 of in the National Security Strategy of Russian Federation of 2021 and include among others –  service to the Fatherland and responsibility for its fate, high moral ideals, a strong family, the priority of the spiritual over the material, collectivism, historical memory and continuity of generations, where a strong family and historical memory are new additions compared to the Strategy of 2015.

Algorithmic russification is the widespread tendency of internet services to push unsolicited content from the Russian Federation to users from Ukraine and or users from elsewhere who added Ukrainian language as an interface or search language or just read content in Ukrainian. 

Authors

Project team

  • Nataliya Zubar – project manager, editor
  • Oksana Yatsiuk 
  • Victor Garbar 
  • Igor Dubrovskiy

Project participants

  • Vira Gryaznova
  • Serhiy Petrov
  • Nataliia Lastovets
  • Oleksa Muravlyov
  • Olga Malysheva
  • Yaroslav Bezruchko
  • Gennadi Tsupin
  • Viktoria Bogdanova
  • Uliana Didych
  • Julia Bylyna

More people contributed to this document, we continue consultations about their signatures.

Sources

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