How to counter controlled misinformation on social networks? Experiences from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova

Although disinformation and conspiracies are not a new phenomenon in Slovakia or in the world, in recent years we have seen an unprecedented growth and spread of disinformation and conspiracies, especially through the Internet, so-called alternative media and social networks. In the Slovak environment, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, we can observe an intense activity of Russian and pro-Russian actors, which is also described in the annual reports of the Slovak Information Service in recent years, purposefully spreading disinformation campaigns aimed at attacking the West, polarising society, questioning scientific knowledge and presenting Russia as an alternative to the pro-European and pro-Atlantic orientation of Slovak foreign policy.


Disinformation has accompanied mankind since time immemorial. The technological boom, the Internet and especially social media multiply the effectiveness of disinformation and its impact on people and society. They are often supported by states. Disinformation divides, (de)motivates and can even provide the motivation to kill.

The possibility of personalisation and immediate access to millions of users make controlled misinformation a powerful weapon. It is the new quality of the effectiveness of spreading disinformation in the population that has made social networks one of the important elements of hybrid warfare. Democratic societies in particular are particularly vulnerable to the penetration of disinformation, which has the potential to change individual opinions and voting behaviour, affecting changes in state orientation even in strategically sensitive areas such as foreign or defence policy. We therefore believe that democratic societies and states must defend themselves. As our findings and recommendations show, defence, against disinformation by (non-)state actors, is most effective when there is close cooperation not only between state organisations, but also with the cooperation and involvement of the non-governmental sector.

According to relevant surveys in Slovakia, more than three quarters of the population draws information from the Internet. The so-called traditional media have been massively replaced as a source of information in recent years. The speed with which targeted misinformation can spread through social media is unprecedented in history. At the same time, the ability to intercept, refute or stop its spread requires disproportionately more energy than its release and targeted dissemination. Experience from Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova shows very similar patterns of disinformation penetration on social networks as in Slovakia. Specific narratives can be seen, thanks to which they are able to spread successfully in the conditions of individual countries. At the same time, however, there are also universal narratives that we know from the Slovak social (and other so-called alternative media) environment. Understanding the mechanism of successful dissemination of these narratives is also a prerequisite for countering them. The choice of the countries mentioned above is not random. They are states that have been subjected for many years to an extremely concentrated pressure of disinformation efforts by Russian actors. The reactions of state institutions and society are in some ways common, in some ways different. In any case, their experience represents a unique experience base for Slovakia. This will allow not only to learn lessons, but also to draw the best possible conclusions for defence. Social networks were born as a glorified phenomenon that was supposed to contribute to better information and the free dissemination of opinions. Today, however, they represent one of the greatest threats to democracy ever – not least because of the massive and uncontrolled spread of misinformation.

This study was produced with the kind support of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic as part of the project “Strengthening the Slovak Republic’s Resilience to Hybrid Threats from Russian Actors – Disinformation Campaigns on Social Networks”. It is a follow-up to the workshop “Propaganda tools of Russian actors on social networks – how to recognize and counter them?”, which was conducted by the Institute for Central Europe on 7 October 2021 in Bratislava. We also recommend to your attention another output of the same project, which is the Handbook of disinformation campaigns, intended for anyone who wants to clarify some of the concepts and connections related to the issue of spreading disinformation.

The entire document by the authors Kataríny Cséfalvayovej and Tomáša Baranca can be found here:

We would like to thank the external experts who contributed with their valuable advice and expertise to the elaboration and improvement of this text: Olga Yurkova, co-founder of the Ukrainian organization StopFake Tamar Kincurasvili, Director of the Georgian Media Development Foundation Petru Macovei, Executive Director of the Moldovan Association for Free Media Realized with financial support of the Ministry of Defence of the SR under the grant program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the Institute for Central Europe.

Handbook of disinformation campaigns

With the rise of information technology and the ever-increasing accessibility of the Internet to the masses, the dissemination of false information is also becoming increasingly common. Collectively, these are commonly referred to as disinformation, fake news or hoaxes, and users often treat these terms as synonyms and freely confuse them with each other. It is true that all these terms are related to false information and have a similar meaning, but they are not really synonyms in the true sense of the word.


The discussion on the issue of hybrid threats and disinformation has brought up a whole range of terms that we have not had, have not used, or have used in a different sense in the Slovak language so far. Terms such as disinformation, hoax, fake news or troll, bot or cyborg are often freely confused with each other, used as synonyms, and few people, except perhaps experts in this field, can recognise and use them correctly.

Disinformation is one of the greatest threats we face today as a state and as a society, and at the same time, effectively combating disinformation and building society’s resilience to it are goals that we have so far only been able to achieve very slowly and partially. However, a step towards achieving these objectives can also be seen as a step towards the correct differentiation and understanding of the concepts and the relationships between them.

This publication builds on the previous work of the National Security Analytical Centre of the Slovak Information Service, Stratpol, and other organizations that have developed terminological dictionaries of hybrid threats in Slovak conditions, describing and defining individual terms related to disinformation campaigns. The aim of the present publication is not only to define the key terms, but also to explain the correlations and differences between them, putting them in context and illustrating them with concrete examples from the practice of disinformation campaigns.

The publication is intended primarily for staff of state institutions who come into contact with the issue of disinformation dissemination, as well as for the general public and anyone wishing to clarify the often confusing terminology of hybrid threats. It is prepared with the support of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, within the project “Strengthening the Slovak Republic’s Resilience to Hybrid Threats from Russian Actors – Disinformation Campaigns on Social Networks”. It is a follow-up to the workshop “Propaganda tools of Russian actors on social networks – how to recognize them and how to counter them?”, conducted by the Institute for Central Europe on 7 October 2021 in Bratislava, as well as to the study “How to counter controlled disinformation on social networks? Experiences from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova”.

Implemented with financial support from the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic under the subsidy programme. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the Institute for Central Europe.

The entire document by the authors  Tomáša Baranca, Kataríny Cséfalvayovej and Frederick Hardman Lea can be found here:

Implemented with financial support from the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic under the subsidy programme. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the Institute for Central Europe.

Slovakia – Ukrainian Forum 🇸🇰🇺🇦 / Kharkov days in Košice

Košice, 13.-14. marec 2024

There is perhaps no more important and complex topic today than the issues related to the developments in our neighbourhood. Although the war has cruelly marred any subtext of the discussion on cooperation, the hope of a European perspective is opening up possibilities that few would have considered even 3 years ago.

Cooperation between municipalities on the renewal and transformation of the energy sector, as well as on technological innovation with a focus on aviation and space, are perhaps unusual but all the more interesting topics that we are addressing.

The Slovak-Ukrainian Forum is co-organised by ICE as part of a broader project with the Centre for Social and Psychological Sciences of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, v. v. i., and the Department of International Cooperation of the Kharkiv City Administration.

We are pleased that diplomats, politicians, government, university and business representatives from both countries accepted the invitation, as well as EC Executive Vice-President M. Šefčovič (online) and EU Ambassador to Ukraine K. Mathernova.

We believe that such discussions are conducive not only to better understanding, but also to identifying the potential for cooperation, which, despite the war, is extremely high and, if harnessed, will provide a strong development impulse for both Slovakia and Ukraine.

#slovakia #ukraine #forum #europskaunia #eu #innovations


2nd National Cluster Conference

Trnava, 11.-12. marec 2024

ICE participated in the 2nd National Cluster Conference, which welcomed almost 40 cluster organisations from different sectors of Slovakia. We presented our project „Slovak Innovation Cluster for Defence and Security“, which we worked on the last year. The project was supported by the subsidy programme of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic to map the conditions and possibilities for the establishment of the first innovation cluster in the field of defence in Slovakia. International practice shows that clustering is an increasingly used form of intensifying cooperation between academia, industry, and government institutions within a country’s defence innovation ecosystem. Representatives of other cluster organisations and a foreign delegation from South Korea were interested in the new and innovative approach and ICE’s project in terms of strengthening the so-called culture of cooperation also in the defence innovation ecosystem in Slovakia. We also pointed out the macroeconomic benefits of establishing a cluster in the field of defence and security. The data show that investments in the defence sector are also worthwhile from a macroeconomic point of view due to the multiplication of significant benefits for other sectors and bringing finance to the GDP of the state. We have discussed this as well as other things. We thank the Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency for the invitation.

Professional symposium – Slovak Innovation Cluster for Defence and Security

Bratislava, 14.11.2023

Institute for Central Europe, c.a., organized an expert symposium to inform about the aims, objectives, and progress of the research project “Slovak Innovation Cluster for Defence and Security”. The project was supported by the Ministry of Defence of SR and aims to provide a comprehensive analysis including practical recommendations in the form of a working manual for the creation of the first specialised sectoral cluster for defence and security in Slovakia. We welcomed representatives of several ministries, state organisations, as well as academia and industry, who were excellent evaluators of the intention to create a specialised cluster in Slovakia.

The manual, which places the need for a cluster for defence and security in the Slovak realities, in the context of the need for international cooperation within the EU and NATO, also contains best practices from selected countries, the benefits of such a cluster for the economy, the rationale for the importance of promoting innovation in the field of defence and security, practical suggestions for the implementation of a sectoral cluster in Slovakia, as well as mapping of potential partners within Slovakia. Practice shows that the promotion of appropriate infrastructure to support innovation, the linking of (also already) existing capacities, and involvement in international projects is a necessity, but also a possibility of the appropriate use of already existing research and production capacities and the most appropriate form of public investment that can multiply their benefits. However, a prerequisite for the successful and efficient functioning of an innovation cluster is the adequate representation and active participation of selected research organisations, industrial entities, and public institutions.



Slovak Innovation Cluster for Defence and Security

Estónsko, 6.10.2023 / Maďarsko, 12.10.2023/ Česká republika, 9.11.2023

International cooperation is a prerequisite for technological development and provides external know-how that can be used to strengthen and improve a country’s innovation capacity. ICE recognises the added value of such a collaborative approach. As part of its project “Slovak Innovation Cluster for Defence and Security”, which aims to map and assess the most appropriate strategy for the creation of a defence cluster in Slovakia, ICE representatives met with representatives of countries and organisations whose geographical proximity, characteristics and structural set-up are similar to Slovakia and whose excellence in the field of cluster establishment and management is unquestionable. Special attention was paid to 3 countries including Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Estonia is one of the leading innovators in the field of defence, including dual-use technologies. ICE representatives met with representatives of the Estonian Defence Cluster, a non-governmental organisation that helps to increase the innovative potential of the modern defence industry, as well as the economy as a whole.

In Hungary, representatives of the Ministry of Defence briefed ICE representatives on Hungary’s approach to defence and innovation. When it comes to the Czech Republic, ICE representatives met with the representatives of the DSIA who explained the structure of cooperation between the Czech government and DSIA as well as the organisation’s role in the defence innovation ecosystem in Czechia. Besides the 3 target countries, ICE also devoted special attention to Denmark as one of the pioneers in the acknowledgement of the importance of the support of innovation and the top leaders in this field. When it comes to Denmark, ICE representatives attended a webinar with Klaus Bolving, Business Development Director, and former CEO of the Danish defence cluster, CenSec (Center for Defence, Space & Security). All the visits and the webinar with the Danish representative, Klaus Bolving, provided an overview of the different strategies applied in establishing and managing defence clusters as well as fostering innovation. We will use this information and incorporate it into our analysis and recommendations to the Slovak Ministry of Defence.

The project “Slovak Innovation Cluster for Defence and Security” to explore the possibilities of establishing and operating it is supported by the MoD of the Slovak Republic.


Life Cycle Management of Military Equipment: Experiences, Expectations and Opportunities for Collaboration

Bratislava, 27.9.2023

“Procurement of military equipment represents not only a potential improvement of defence capabilities, but most of the time also a significant burden on the budget of the Ministry of Defence and public finances as a whole. When assessing the price, the public usually encounters only the so-called acquisition price of the equipment, which often does not take into account the total life cycle including service, logistics, training, but also the cost of the actual decommissioning of the equipment from the use of the armed forces. Such a comprehensive view then shows a much more realistic view of the public requirements. It is therefore imperative that the complex process of assessing and procuring new military equipment is addressed through the lens of tracking all costs, which can give us a much more accurate/precise perception of the total costs required.

There are a number of modern approaches that can help reduce and streamline processes within the military equipment life cycle. The Institute for Central Europe (ICE) has therefore prepared an expert symposium which, in addition to highlighting this neglected yet critically important aspect of armed forces modernisation, will also discuss other options for reducing costs and streamlining processes within the overall lifecycle of military (especially land-based) equipment, including international cooperation. It is international cooperation that could be one of the key solutions in reducing overall costs throughout the life cycle of military equipment. The event was therefore attended by the highest representatives of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, headed by the Secretary of State and Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces, the Military Envoy of the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as a delegation from the Czech Ministry of Defence and representatives of state industrial enterprises and private companies.

The event entitled “Life Cycle Management of Military Technology: Experiences, Expectations and Opportunities for Cooperation” was held thanks to the support of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic and Rheinmetall MAN.




Conference – European asylum policy after Ukraine

Bratislava, 12.-13.7.2023

On 13 July, the conference European Asylum Policy after Ukraine was organised by the Institute for Central Europe in cooperation with the University of Liège and the University of Paris Cité in the framework of the ACRONYM project. The aim of the conference was to bring new perspectives on migration in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the war-induced refugee crisis.

Four panel discussions were attended by MPs, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, migration policy experts, representatives of NGOs, academics and experts in the field of migration, who exchanged views on the topic and highlighted the gaps and shortcomings that hinder the adoption of effective decisions in the field of migration. The conference also highlighted the problem of politicians’ abuse of migration and emphasised the need to de-politicise the issue and reflect on migration through the prism of rationality based on facts.

The Central European Migration Research Hub was also launched at the conference as a virtual platform that will bring together and connect academics and experts in the field of migration from the Central European region and beyond. The platform is also intended to serve as a venue for sharing academic publications, migration and asylum projects, opportunities for collaboration, as well as various migration-related events and conferences, in order to facilitate networking and bringing people in the CEE region together on the topic. In the second part of the conference, the academics presented their scientific studies in which they highlighted the importance of the social and health perspective in the implementation of an effective asylum policy, the issue of discrimination against refugees who are members of minorities, and presented projects implemented by Slovak universities in the context of migration.




Economic diary

Praha, 2023

“Martin Fedor, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ICE, participated in a symposium of the Economic Daily focused on technology and defence strategy of the Czech Republic. The symposium was opened by Czech Defence Minister, Jana Černochová, who stressed the need to adopt and support a triple innovation spiral approach – linking the state, the private sector and academia – to acquire the defence capabilities and technologies needed to maintain a technological edge over our rivals. Martin Fedor stressed the need for investment in R&D and technology within the defence sector, as this is a prerequisite not only for maintaining technological progress but also a condition for future economic growth. In addition, he pointed to the need to find new financial and political instruments within the EU to support the ambitions set out.”




The European Union concerns us

Bratislava, 26.4.2023

“We took part in a panel discussion – The European Union in the context of contemporary challenges – organised by the European Parliament Office in Slovakia in cooperation with the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences of Comenius University. The discussion is part of a series of discussions aimed at bringing the EU and its different policy areas closer to the citizens of Slovakia. The discussion focused on the EU enlargement policy. In addition, the discussion focused on the problem of disinformation campaigns in Slovakia in the context of the contemporary challenges. The panel discussion focused on the need to speed up the EU enlargement process, including the need for a treaty reform. Martin Fedor pointed out that if the Western Balkans are not integrated into the EU, it will be a space for the great power appetites of non-European state actors, in particular Russia and China. Discussants also agreed on the need for effective action against the disinformation that is disrupting our societies, as illustrated by the example of Brexit.