Anna Fotyga 

Online propaganda by terrorist organisations and countries such as Russia aim to incite fear and divide Europe. MEPs debate this afternoon a report calling for stronger countermeasures and more collaboration between EU states. We talked to report author Anna Fotyga, a Polish member of the ECR group, about the impact of this disinformation and how to counter it. “We have to invest much more in these campaigns to fight radicalisation,” she said.

What impact have these propaganda efforts had? There are many theories about what happened in the US, but do they have the power to affect elections in Europe?

 

Much happened after the Russian aggression on Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. It was a wake-up call.


From our point of view in Central and Eastern Europe Russia started to distort information and influence media markets much earlier. It was a pure continuation of methods and tools used during the Cold War.


Of course it does have an influence on societies in the EU and on other countries. Surely the citizens of the United States of America are also the target of Russian propaganda with the use of many tools such as Russia Today.

 

Why has Islamic State been successful in its online efforts to reach out to young Muslims in Europe? How can Europe defend itself?

 

Unfortunately, it is not only young Muslims. Using a variety of tools they were able to attract people from different generations and other religions and get them to convert and stay radicalised.


I’ve met many representatives from EU member states and for decision-makers it's a trauma knowing that their youth may turn against their own nation. It’s really exceptionally difficult to deal with, yet we are ready and we start to be supported on a European level as well.


There are really sophisticated tools to assess the situation and the report mentions instruments to indicate false information and the necessity to describe cases and patterns of radicalisation and how they often prove very tragic for whole families.


We have tools that are at disposal of any EU member state to monitor social media and cases of radicalisation. It’s of course a big effort, yet we are now aware of things thanks to a very open cooperation and information coming from the capitals.


However, financing remains an issue. We have to invest much more in these campaigns to fight radicalisation.