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Workshop “Misinformation and disinformation by state and non-state actors”

On 14 June, the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies organised the workshop Misinformation and disinformation by state and non-state actors, which brought together representatives of EU member states, researchers and high-level experts in the digital world. The main objective of this workshop, presented by Javier Ruipérez, Director of the Euro-Arab Foundation’s Research and Projects Department, and Eva Jiménez, from RAN Policy Support, was to address and mitigate the effects of disinformation and the influence of external actors with malicious intentions in the European Union, as well as to analyse current trends and threats and identify the main actors involved and understand their methods, highlighting disinformation campaigns and hybrid strategies.

Daniel Pérez García, Euro-Arab researcher, moderated the session on how to increase resilience in the face of false information and misinformation. In the European context, the prevalence of both misinformation, i.e. false or inaccurate information spread without malicious intent, often as a result of rumours, misunderstandings or mistakes (El Mikati, et al.), and disinformation, the deliberate creation and dissemination of false information to mislead and manipulate the public (Torres-Soriano), has increased significantly in recent years, exacerbated by various factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical conflicts and the rise of new anti-system movements.

This turbulent environment has also seen the growth of conspiracy theories and the influence of external actors engaged in Sharp power actions that exploit digital platforms to carry out operations aimed at destabilising European democracies,

Facing disinformation with digital education and critical thinking

The workshop highlighted the intricate ways in which disinformation campaigns undermine democratic processes and sow social discord. Examples of state-sponsored disinformation were presented, highlighting the urgent need for coordinated responses to protect democratic integrity. Similarly, building resilience to disinformation promoting radical narratives was further explored, underlining the importance of a holistic, society-wide approach involving various sectors, including government, civil society and citizens.

Discussions underlined the importance of digital education, critical thinking skills, security and social cohesion measures at the local level to empower societies to identify and effectively combat disinformation. Particular attention was paid to the benefits of integrating emotional governance strategies to better manage the current poly-crisis, highlighting the importance of addressing emotions and public perceptions in crisis management strategies. Overall, the workshop underlined the imperative of collective action and innovative strategies to strengthen societies against the disruptive effects of disinformation in the European Union and its member states.