Just as in many other countries in the world the Czech online scene is filled with hateful comments and disinformation posing as news. The authors of this material are commonly referred to as “trolls” and their influence is increasingly seen as dangerous and divisive, potentially working on behalf of foreign actors. While this may be true in some cases it seems that the majority of the Czech troll scene is made up of individuals who do so voluntarily.
Swedish statistician Ola Rosling is co-founder of Gapminder, a foundation that aims to chart trends and use data to fight what it calls “devastating ignorance” using “fact-based worldviews everyone can understand.” On the invitation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, he recently visited the Czech Republic to share his vision with local politicians and decision-makers. His message to them in part was to reexamine their assumptions about the world – because the Left and Right are “equally wrong” – and embrace nuance over binary thinking.
The Interior Ministry wants to focus on hate speech on social networks and
sites spreading fake news, according to its 2018 report on extremism and
priorities outlined for the future.
The ministry says verbal expressions of racism and xenophobia are concentrated around sites featuring fake news, conspiracy theories and disinformation.
It wants to launch a counter-offensive in the form of a campaign based on reliable information on migration and integration of foreign nationals in Czech society.
This time of year, everyone is naturally taking stock of 2018 – the highs and lows of the past year – and what may lie ahead. Meanwhile, in Brussels, the EU’s direct initiative to identify, debunk and counter Russia’s disinformation campaign has come out with a list entitled “What did not happen in 2018?”
A group of students has criticised that fact that Jiří Ovčáček, the
spokesperson of President Miloš Zeman, was invited to give a lecture at a
university. The head of a faculty at Prague’s University of Economics
invited Mr. Ovčáček to speak about fake news and introduced him as
“the most educated” presidential spokesperson ever.
However, the student Facebook group Club of Young Political Scientists said that inviting Mr. Ovčáček to discuss fake news was deliberate provocation. He frequently speaks to the pro-Russian Parlamentní listy website, which has long been monitored by the Ministry of the Interior, the students said.
The latest annual report of Czech counter-intelligence service BIS has outlined a series of threats to national security in what analysts say is unusually direct, rather undiplomatic language. In particular, BIS points to efforts by Russian and Chinese spies and other actors in terms of spreading disinformation in a bid to sway public opinion, and engaging in economic espionage.
The former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Petr Pavel has
stressed that more needs to be done to fight hybrid attacks from Russia and
Addressing a conference on information warfare and hybrid threats currently held in Prague, General Pavel noted that while Europe’s security forces cooperated well in detecting and minimizing the danger of terrorist attacks Europe still underestimated the threat of hybrid attacks by Russia and China.
He said that in fighting the hybrid threat it was essential to explain the concept to the public, how disinformation campaigns work and how big a threat they present.
Czechs often have trouble assessing information from the media, suggests a
survey carried out by STEM/MARK agency for Czech Television. The results of
the survey were presented on Thursday at a conference on media literacy
organised by the Ministry of Education.
Women over sixty, people with lower education and the unemployed showed lower media literacy than other groups. The survey also suggests that most Czechs don’t have problems with using modern technologies and the internet, but many of them are not aware of who owns or controls the country’s media.
Jakub Kalenský was among the first to join the skeleton staff of the East StratCom Task Force, the European Union’s first direct initiative to identify, debunk and counter Russia’s disinformation campaigns. For the first year or so of the Task Force’s existence, established in the summer of 2015, the Czech former journalist was also the only team member devoted solely to that monumental task.
Lecturers and students at Masaryk University in Brno have developed an interactive game that focuses on teaching the ability to distinguish between disinformation and trustworthy news. The length of one game is especially taylored to fit into an hour of teaching at school and its developers hope that it will be implemented by schools, orphanages and old age homes.