Bad actors are amplifying misinformation content directed at EU member states to shape public perception, a report by SafeGuard Cyber reveals.
The report provides evidence and detail into how Russia is deploying misinformation campaigns on social media to influence European Parliamentary elections taking place from May 23-26, 2019.
Most notably, over a ten-day period in March, SafeGuard Cyber identified 6,700 bad actors who posted and amplified enough divisive digital content to reach upwards of 241 million users, almost half the population of the European Union.
The report shows tracked activities conducted by bots, trolls and other malicious parties, referred to as “bad actors,” how their messages are spread, and to what extent EU government institutions and personnel are vulnerable. Further, the report demonstrates a connection between bad actor misinformation campaigns and real-world news events.
For example, on March 4, French President Emanuel Macron published an article about what he perceived to be the future of Europe. On March 5, bad actor activity increased 79 percent from the previous day, primarily to promote or share content attempting to discredit Macron’s ideas and shape public perception.
Sir Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, who has been leading efforts at the EU level to counter disinformation online, said about the SafeGuard Cyber report: “The report underlines the dangers of disinformation online. Malicious actors, whether they be state or non-state, will not hesitate to use the internet to attempt to influence and interfere in our democratic processes.
“We have achieved a lot in the past year in our work to counter this threat. But more remains to be done on all sides, including by the big internet platforms – it is vital we ensure the security of our elections.”
“The scale of the problem is tremendous. The rise of disinformation campaigns is abetted by the fact that it is incredibly difficult to stop their spread on social platforms,” said Otavio Freire, CTO and President of SafeGuard Cyber.
“Bad actors realize that hacking election infrastructure, and hacking the perception of reality and facts, are ultimately tactics to accomplish similar outcomes. The former you need to get past firewalls while the latter continues to be unprotected. Our report reinforces the need for a new approach to security, as today’s bad actors are not at all hindered by the cybersecurity tactics of yesterday.”