People have been talking about Putin’s disinformation for some time. And since Russia’s large-scale invasion on Ukraine, many have taken decisive action.
When I was living in Warsaw, for example, from May to July 2022, I couldn't access RT (formerly known as Russia Today). The Czech government takes a similar attitude and even describes disinformation as a form of terrorism. Estonia and Ukraine have extensive TV programming that actively debunks disinformation in order to promote critical thinking and media literacy. Finland has gone to extensive lengths to educate its citizens about Russian disinformation as well. Europe is taking action.
Censorship is a part of society — and that’s good — especially because of Putin’s influence in the region. Without it, Putin’s game against democracy might not end in the way we want.
Social media has permeated society. Most of us are online for the majority of the time we are awake. And because of the amount of time we spend online, many of us engage with purposefully misleading claims daily.
This has become a problem, to the extent that it influenced the state of US elections.
But false and misleading claims have always been a part of politics. They function as a useful political tool in a world where media attention can only entertain a limited amount of topics at any given moment.
In modern history, many politicians have noticed that people are not after the careful reasoning we might ideally want from our electorates. Politicians have therefore used purposefully erroneous arguments in order to bolster support for their campaigns.
Some of these stand out more than the rest, like Cambridge Analytica. And some of the more damaging cases have something to do with Vladimir Putin’s use of disinformation.
A Firehose of Falsehoods
In order to sow divisions in society, Putin has utilized what has been dubbed a “firehose of falsehoods.”
This methodology does not necessarily portray fake claims as true but instead spreads enough false discourse into the media space to make it difficult to distinguish between true and false statements.