False Narratives

Hacking voters’ brains

30 March 2019


The susceptibility of the general public to the multifaceted and interwoven tales of disinformation will spell doom for the mainstream political parties of the EU and encourage a more radical agenda to emerge.


  • Russia is actively supporting eurosceptic parties with the hope to stir up discord within the EU.
  • Automated bot traffic and trolls are spurring on anti-European and nationalist movements.
  • This will end in electoral successes for radical parties, with the more centrist parties losing ground.

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In the upcoming European elections, Russia will wish to exert an impact on the electoral campaign, focusing on the largest EU member states which have an influence on the shape and functioning of the EU and have the most representatives at the European Parliament: Germany, France and Italy.

It is from Russians that we should expect the greatest disinformation threats through which they will attempt to help pro-Russian and eurosceptic EP candidates.

Many mainstream political parties which already are in the EP and will put up candidates in this year’s EP election have an agreement with Russian authorities for support in their activities.

For example, there has been Kremlin support for the populist Five Star Movement proffering eurosceptic views that undermine European unity, with whom Poland’s Kukiz15 has joined forces in the EP electoral campaign.

Also, the head of the French National Rally, Marine Le Pen, has begun collaborating with the Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, thus creating an ever increasing anti-European front in the parliamentary election, which is gaining strength in Europe with the establishment of new Eurosceptic parties.

In Poland, the PolExit party has been registered by the current MEP Stanisław Żółtek, who says outright (as one might infer) that he wants Poland to leave the EU.

Hence the mobilisation of anti-European and eurosceptic electorates in respective countries will be one of the topics of disinformation activities.

This will consist of support for parties and candidates proffering nationalist and pro-Russia views and opposing the EU through a sudden increase in followers, shares, likes and comments of support – completed by bots as well as generating growth and traffic by trolls.

Another theme that will be raised in this year’s campaign is the fuelling of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. This has been exemplified by the billboard campaign initiated by Viktor Orbán (featuring the photos of Jean-Claude Juncker and George Soros) and denouncing the Brussels elites and Brussels immigration policy as threatening the Hungarian state. The campaign has been condemned by the European Commission as false and manipulative.

These harmful narratives are effective in that they exacerbate party conflicts, increase divisions and disrupt the debate by spreading false political comments or quote comments out of context, and in general distort the truth.

The way this is materialising in Poland can be shown through the controversy surrounding an LGBTQ+ declaration signed by the Mayor of Warsaw. The critical news being widely disseminated is inconsistent with the content of the actual declaration signed. Nevertheless, these comments have reached 10.5 million online accounts and garnered 43 thousand mentions.

This also fits squarely into the narrative promoted in the Russian media, which presents the West as “morally rotten” and describing the alleged “moral migration” from the West to Russia – “Europeans are seeking refuge in Russia from aggressive sexual education, homosexual dictatorship” reports Life, a Russian online news service.

In short, the results from disinformation campaigns are intended to demobilise the moderate electorate and mobilise the radicals.

In the 2019 EP campaign, the main effect stemming from a lack of coordinated action against online disinformation will be political fragmentation with an increase of support for parties on the extreme sides of the political spectrum.

As a result, the main centre parties will be weakened and forced to adapt their agendas to the issues promoted by radicals, diminishing the capacity for decision-making and efficient adoption of legislative initiatives.



Visegrad Insight 2 (14) 2019
European Parliamentary #Futures

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Published by Res Publica Foundation
Partner: Konrad Adenauer Foundation
Supported by: ABTSHIELD

Wojciech Przybylski, Editor-in-Chief
Marcin Zaborowski, Senior Associate

Magda Jakubowska, Director of Operations
Galan Dall, Managing Editor
Anhelina Pryimak, Editorial Assistant
Anna Kulikowska-Kasper, Contributor
Paweł Kuczyński, Illustrations
Rzeczyobrazkowe, Graphic Design


European Parliamentary #Futures

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