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This is how Russian misinformation affects the West and Italy

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Who participated and what was said at the conference “The Russian strategy of disinformation and cognitive warfare in Italy”, organized by the Gino Germani Institute of Social Sciences and Strategic Studies.

The disinformazia it is not the opposite of information but an alteration of information. And Russia is a master of using this war strategy in our country as well. This is what emerged among other things from the conference “The Russian strategy of disinformation and cognitive warfare in Italy”, Organized by the Gino Germani Institute of Social Sciences and Strategic Studies.

Disinformation: the manipulation of opinions

“The term was invented by Stalin and applied to send false information to Russian dissidents refugees in France – he says Roberto Di Nunzio, journalist and essayist, information warfare expert, among the speakers at the event -. Disinformation in its primitive meaning is not disinformation and does not need fake news or post truth because it focuses on opinions considering those that already exist. Misinformation is not information poisoning but comes close to a disease of the human body which is dystrophy, corruption of the power system of our fibers. Disinformation is the activity of ideological and then political influence ”. It is an ancient technique, of which even Marx mentions, and then Lenin used the terms of “traveling companions” and “useful idiots” to describe the agents of influence, conscious or not, of Soviet activities in the Western field.

The difference between the “active measures” of Russia and the Soviet Union
Putin has not forgotten this technique, which he makes extensive use of through the media and journalists / experts also present on Italian TV but today he cannot have the value link that Lenin and Stalin had. “In Soviet times – he explains Kevin Riehle (Associate professor, University of Mississippi, Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, and US government counterintelligence analyst) – the phrase “active measures” had a specific definition that was different from propaganda, which was an integral part of the party dialogue Soviet communist. Vasiliy Mitrokhin, in the 2002 book “KGB lexicon”, He defined” active measures “as operational measures of agents operated by the KGB to exert influence, to persuade, frighten, push or attract to achieve the goal of facilitating the implementation of Soviet policy”. Such techniques were also employed in the post-Soviet era. “Yevgeniy Primakov, the leader of the successor of the KGB, gave an identical definition, with a less ideological language – adds prof. Riehle -. As support actions, conducted to ensure that Russia’s measures are perceived in a positive way and are, therefore, more effective ”.

The fear of Russia: having the world against

From the interventions of the experts it emerges that it is essential to investigate and know the cultural differences between the Western front and Russia, to try to speak the same language and not be caught unprepared. “Intelligence operations are different if you think in Western language or in Russian language – continues Kevin Riehle -. In Russian the word Razdvedka, which is often translated as intelligence, has a broader meaning, it is not limited to gathering information, but acting against the enemy, increasing the chances of Russian measures being successful. Russia’s political goals are: to protect Putin’s regime, check the post soviet spaceto counterbalance the unipolar actor of the world, to paint Russia as an indispensable actor in the global equilibrium and to divide and destroy NATO and the European Union to reduce Russia’s isolation. In order for disinformation to be effective, some elements are necessary: ​​mixed technology, exploiting existing political divisions and providing credible information ”. Currently, the Russian services continue to deal with “covert information, collects intelligence information and deals with this part but it is not at the level of the KGB”. During the Cold War there were “at least 10,000 disinformation operations by the Soviet bloc, then the pace dropped. In the first decade of the 2000s, disinformation operations began to rise again. The goal is always to strengthen the Russian hand and is based on the assumption that the world is against Russia and that to be successful her opponents must fail ”.

The psychological aspects of the Russian cognitive war: the manipulation of thought
But how do the “active measures”Of disinformation? Marco Cannavicci (Medical Officer Psychiatrist, expert in Humint techniques and security) in the intervention of him explained the psychological aspects of the Russian cognitive war. “Nhe neuroscience has had a great development in the past decades and the neurobiological mechanisms with which we form opinions, ideas, positions have been understood – says Cannavicci -. And therefore having clarified the ways in which ideas are formed, it is possible from the outside to deliberately intervene on these mechanisms to form the ideas that interest us in people. The goal today is not to kill the enemy but to change his ideas, his opinions so that he comes to think like me. The Russian cognitive warfare has a holistic approach: anything useful for this purpose can be used ”.

Reflexive control

One of the techniques used to control the development of opinions was developed in the 1960s and is called the reflective control. “It creates in the other person’s mind a virtual reality that replaces objective reality, to make sure that through this virtual reality he chooses to behave as it suits me – adds Cannavicci -. It can happen on mass scenarios because collective behaviors are easier to predict than individual ones. The most interesting techniques are those that suggest distracting the opponent’s mind on non-priority aspects. The other technique is to give a lot of conflicting information. Another modality is the repetition of the information even if false. The king of these mechanisms is deception, deceiving the opponent about my strength, my positions and my real intentions. When these techniques are adopted in reality nothing is true but everything is possible: I have achieved my goal, my opponent’s choices will not be rational but instinctive “. In 2014, General Valery Gerasimov developed the doctrine of controlling perceptions. “The technique that describes this doctrine is that of imitating the enemy’s reasoning to induce him to make decisions that are unfavorable to him – concludes Cannavicci -. By intervening on time, pressure is put on a person to decide, the intelligence needed in these fields is that of the formula one driver, when you have very few seconds to make a decision. Smart people put in these conditions make stupid choices ”.

Disinformation on the web

Disinformation also travels on the web. “In 2017, social media companies started paying attention to the presence of accounts that were not what they seemed and had manipulative purposes – he says. Renee DiResta (Technical Research Manager, Stanford Internet Observatory) -. From our analyzes we have found that Russia uses state media or state organizations related in some way, financially or personally, to the Russian state to disseminate information and most people are unaware of this. Many do not know that many accounts belong to a foreign state “. Disinformation also means riding the divisions and internal difficulties of an opposing state. “In 2020, Russia’s propaganda about the riots in the US on the subject of“ black life matter ”increased. We have carried out a qualitative remediation project: we have analyzed more than thousands of posts between May 2020 and September 2020, the key period of the riots. Most of these came from 6 accounts affiliated with the Russian state – continues Renee DiResta -. The live stream plays a very important role in the disinformation strategy: protest images are continuously broadcast, around a frame of meaning is built by the Russian state media that aims to reach a specific audience to get a certain message. Added to this is the old strategy of underlining atrocities ”.

Italy victim of disinformation

Italy, like and more than other Western countries, is a field of action for disinformation. “The real offensive these days takes place in the Italian television mainstream, in particular with some names – says the journalist Jacopo Jacoboni of the newspaper La Stampa -. International intelligence has paid attention to Vladimir Solovyov, the main anchor of Russia Uno, the main channel of Russian state TV, who has been a fairly regular guest on two national private TV channels. He has suffered personal sanctions from Western countries. Another journalist who has suffered ad personam sanctions as a war propagandist is Dimitri Kulikov that the other night he was at La7, and candidly admitted that only in Italy they participate in televised shows ”. There are also cases of Russian journalists suspected of being Russian agents linked to some television stations and who were hosted in Italy. “There is a journalist, Yulia Vityazeva, which became famous because she tweeted invoking a missile on Eurovision after the Ukrainian band’s victory. Vityazeva works for Newsfront, information group that has spread the Russian point of view from the years of the aggression in Crimea – Jacoboni concludes -. By the US it is not considered a newspaper but a channel of disinformation and propaganda based in Crimea focused on supporting the Russian armed forces in Ukraine ”.


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