The Czech government is to set up a specialist ”anti-fake news” unit as officials attempt to tackle falsehoods, predominantly about migrants, which they claim are spread by websites supported by the government of Russian president Vladimir Putin, The Guardian reports.
”The key goal of Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic is to sow doubts into the minds of the people that democracy is the best system to organise a country, to build negative images of the European Union and Nato, and [to] discourage people from participation in the democratic processes,” Tomas Prouza, the Czech government`s state secretary for European affairs, told the Guardian.
Part of the interior ministry, the new Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats will begin operating on 1 January with 20 full-time specialists. They will be based in the building that was used as an interrogation center by the former communist regime`s secret police during the cold war, when the former Czechoslovakia was a close ally of the Soviet Union.
The specialists will scrutinize disinformation and attempt to counter it, via a dedicated Twitter account and a new section of the interior ministry website devoted to communicating the government viewpoint. The center will also train civil servants to avoid blackmail and resist foreign lobbying.
”They [Russia] will undoubtedly try to influence the upcoming elections by discouraging people who would most probably vote for the democratic parties from voting,” said Prouza.
The Czech fears echo those voiced by Germany`s domestic intelligence chief that Russia-linked ”fake news” sites could interfere with its election. Claims have also been made of Russian cyber activity aimed at influencing last month`s US presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.