Bishkek – On June 22, Mr. Daniel Kimmage, the Acting Coordinator of the U.S. State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), spoke with Kyrgyz and other Central Asian journalists and academics about Russia’s disinformation ecosystem and how Russia uses proxy sites to hide the true origins of their disinformation campaigns.
The GEC is leading efforts of the U.S. Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. During the online discussion, which was attended by more than two dozen participants from Central Asia, Acting Coordinator Kimmage discussed the GEC’s Special Report “Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.” The report details how the “pillars” of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem – official government communications, state-funded global messaging, cultivation of proxy sources, weaponization of social media, and cyber-enabled disinformation – create and promote disinformation in traditional and electronic media, including social media.
In addition, Mr. Kimmage discussed how state disinformation and propaganda campaigns are negatively impacting the fight against COVID-19. Mr. Kimmage noted that in February 2020, the GEC observed that Russian, Chinese, and Iranian disinformation narratives on the topic of COVID-19 had converged, with all three promoting identical false claims. He further added that Russia has targeted COVID-19 vaccines with disinformation and propaganda. On this subject, Acting Coordinator Kimmage stated, “The GEC has monitored two separate but reinforcing approaches by Russia: highlighting the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for geopolitical gain while spreading false and distorted information about Western vaccines. The tragic fact is that Russian disinformation undermines trust in all vaccines, not only those of Western origin.”
During the session, Dr. Kimmage emphasized the need for societies and governments to effectively respond to disinformation without resorting to censorship or free speech. “Training programs in areas such as investigative journalism, fact-checking, media literacy, and digital forensics are proven to help combat disinformation,” Kimmage commented. He added, “Even more important than programs such as these, is the free debate of ideas and a free press.”