Report - "Why Conspiratorial Propaganda Works and What We Can Do About It"
Conspiratorial propaganda is increasingly used by mainstream political actors to undermine democratic values and institutions. Conspiracy theories about the philanthropist George Soros flourish across the world, as do fake stories about secret medical experiments run by “deep state” Western powers.
The Kremlin and its proxies in Ukraine use such conspiratorial disinformation to argue that the West is no better than Russia, and that the country should abandon democratic reforms.
This research project explored audience vulnerability and resistance to such narratives, through a combination of media monitoring, polling and focus groups. We found that conspiratorial disinformation resonates with many people’s deep-seated perceptions: a zero-sum vision of the world and a lack of agency. Challenging conspiratorial propaganda will mean engaging with these underlying issues.
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Report- "Moving Beyond Polarising Populist Propaganda: the Case of Hungary”
This research paper shows that despite continued exposure to polarising narratives, Hungarian citizens are considerably less divided than government rhetoric would have us believe. Through a combination of media monitoring, polling, audience segmentation and focus groups, our research reveals important social trends hidden beneath the simplistic framing of Hungary as a divided nation. In particular, our results indicate that surface political polarisation disguises a broader consensus amongst the Hungarian people about values, priorities and Hungary’s place in the world.
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Report- "From 'Memory Wars' to a Common Future: Overcoming Polarisation in Ukraine"
This two-year project has researched practical ways to overcome disinformation and polarisation, and shows what strategies public-spirited media can adopt to enhance social resilience and trust in a deeply fractured media environment. The immediate topic of this report is polarisation around historical narratives in Ukraine, yet the methodology and findings are of relevance to anyone looking to overcome polarisation across the world.
In Ukraine, the Kremlin has often used historical controversies around World War II as well as lingering nostalgia for the Soviet Union to set social groups against each other, to drive ethnic and geographical divisions and to undermine trust in pro-European reforms. Our research has explored ways that public-spirited media can create content on history that avoids playing into these propaganda-driven divides. First, we carried out extensive social research into both the historical issues that divide Ukrainians, as well as the underlying social values that unite polarised groups. Then, based on these findings we worked with the independent Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske to create video content that aimed to bring different groups together into a constructive discussion of historical issues. Finally, we analysed audience responses in order to develop a set of best practices for public-spirited media in Ukraine.
Report- "Journalism in an age of populism and polarisation: lessons from the migration debate in Italy"
How should journalists adapt their editorial strategies to overcome extreme polarisation and the tactics of populist politicians? Over the past year LSE Arena worked on a unique project with the Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera and the University of Venice. We analysed different approaches to writing about migration in Italy, a highly controversial topic in the country. How can one cover such issues in a way that promotes civil engagement, enhances trust and a fact-based discourse?
In order to find an answer, Arena and our partners established a unique set of 'public service spirited' metrics and analysed thousands of online comments. The study was presented at a workshop in London with senior editors and journalists from the BBC, Observer, Financial Times and others.
See translations of the Executive Summary in French, Spanish and Italian.
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Report- "Smearing Sweden, International Influence Campaigns in the 2018 Swedish Election"
This ISD-Arena report presents the findings of a project that investigated foreign attempts to influence the 2018 Swedish elections online.
The project revealed the relative isolation of the Swedish far-right online, with few internationally coordinated efforts identified in the Swedish election information ecosystem. Online Scandinavian far-right networks made some attempts to seed disinformation and hate campaigns in Sweden through fringe platforms such as 4Chan and Discord, but these efforts were neither widespread or consistent.
Internationally, the research unearthed a consistent and concerning information campaign targeting Sweden’s reputation from far-right networks across the US, UK, France, Germany, Poland and Hungary. This campaign has also been promoted on an ongoing basis by Kremlin-sponsored media in various languages.
The report provides recommendations for steps that can be taken by Swedish and international policymakers, media and civil society in order to build a proportional and effective response to these kind of influence efforts.
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Report- "How to Talk with Russia: Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century"
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Report- "Soviet Subversion, Disinformation and Propaganda: How the West Fought Against it"
What were Soviet influence and disinformation campaigns? What did the West do about them? This study answers these questions, explaining the Cold War strategies followed by the USSR, as well as the Western response.
The full report contains eleven case studies, each one examining a counter-disinformation and counter-propaganda tactic in depth, with comments on the relevance of that tactic today.
Please see below for the executive summary of the report. The full report is available upon request and any emails regarding the report should be sent to email@example.com
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Report- "Make Germany Great Again"
Our findings suggest that a mixture of inaccurate Russian state-sponsored news and pro-Kremlin social media manipulation was used to reinforce socially divisive issues, such as immigration and distrust of democratic institutionsm, with a clear bias towards the AfD party.
The report provides recommendations for steps that can be taken by domestic and international civil society, policymakers and media in order to build a proportional and effective response to these efforts.
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As part of the Arena team’s previous research, Peter and Anne wrote, edited or published the following research:
Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, Berivan Orucoglu, Gary Rawnsley, Abigail Fielding-Smith and Peter Pomerantsev, “The New Authoritarians: Ruling Through Disinformation”, Beyond Propaganda, June 2015.
Nicholas J. Cull, “Counter Propaganda: Cases from US Public Diplomacy and beyond”, Beyond Propaganda, July 2015.
Laura Jackson, Timothy Thomas, Mark Laity, Ben Nimmo and Peter Pomerantsev, “Information at War: From China’s Three Warfares to NATO’s Narratives”, Beyond Propaganda, September 2015.
Katrina Elledge, David Patrikarakos, Charlie Winter and Peter Pomerantsev, “Cyber Propaganda: From how to start a revolution to how to beat ISIS”, Beyond Propaganda, November 2015.
Edward Lucas and Peter Pomerantsev, “Winning the Information War: Techniques and Counter-strategies to Russian Propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe”, Center for European Policy Analysis, August 2016.
Paul Copeland, “Factual Entertainment: How to Make Media Literacy Popular”, Beyond Propaganda, August 2016.
Marina Pesenti and Peter Pomerantsev, “How to Stop Disinformation: Lessons from Ukraine for the Wider World”, Beyond Propaganda, August 2016.