Reports & Studies

becid JULY 2023 report

Disinformation trends in the Baltics: war in Ukraine, NATO presence and controversy over edible insects

During the second quarter of the year the fact-checking efforts in the three Baltic states primarily concentrated on the war in Ukraine and the spread of Russian propaganda about it. The highest level of Ukraine-related disinformation was found in Lithuania, while Latvia and Estonia saw a decline.

Non-war related conspiracies and fabricated stories about the health featured heavily in the all three Baltic states. For example, false claims emerged in Latvia and Lithuania that massive earthquakes in Syria and Turkey were deliberately induced by a US-controlled “climate weapon,” aiming to tarnish the reputation of US officials, local authorities, the United Nations, NATO and EU.

becid JULY 2023 report

Kremlin’s propaganda in our pockets. How disinformation thrives on Telegram.

By banning Kremlin’s TV and online propaganda in the Baltics, the access to such resources has become more challenging only for those whose primary source used to be television. Now social media platforms have taken up that space, among which Telegram stands out because it does not share data with governments and does not moderate disinformation and lies.

In the Baltics, the most popular channels directed towards local Russian speakers are not having the big following in numbers, but that is not the point:  their main role is to amplify each other’s content and create the impression that many people think alike. Telegram played a particularly significant role during the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Various activists, both well-known and new, have joined forces on “Telegram” to popularise pro-Kremlin messages.

becid JULY 2023 report

A Trend Report on Russia’s Disinformation Tactics Targeting the Baltics

Although more than a year has passed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has still not succeeded in achieving its goals – Ukraine and its people have still not given up, and Western countries have not stopped their efforts to restrain Russia and support Ukraine. Even more, NATO has expanded. Legally, pro-Kremlin disinformation tries to spread many different messages towards audiences in the Baltic States, including Latvia, hoping to impress local audiences and break the current status quo. It is true that pro-Kremlin disinformation is characterized by the stability and immutability of messages, thus the form and content of the same messages do not differ significantly from what has been experienced before.

becid march 2023 report

A Trend Report on Russia’s Disinformation Tactics Targeting the Baltics

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February last year has brought about a change in Russia’s long-standing efforts to influence Latvian and Baltic information spaces with disinformation.

The escalation of the war and the resulting widespread backlash against the Russian regime has reinforced the Kremlin’s need to break the current relationship in order to return to the relative normality that existed before 24 February.

At the same time, it would be wrong to claim that Russian disinformation has been fundamentally transformed in terms of messages against the background of the war, since Russia’s own foreign policy orientations have not been transformed.

But the war has provided new pretexts to try to deliver messages that have been tried and tested for years to audiences, in an attempt to adapt them to the current situation.

becid February 2023 report

Is TikTok a Gateway to Politics in the Baltics? For Now, Only in Latvia

Although there is a common assumption that TikTok is used only by a younger generation, Re:Baltica’s analysis shows that in Latvia it’s a powerful tool enough for populists to get into parliament.

After shutting down Kremlin’s TV channels, TikTok has become fertile soil also for Kremlin’s narratives. Latvian State Security service has started seven criminal investigations for supporting Moscow on TikTok, while Lithuania and Estonia are taking a lighter approach.

Why so, read in Re:Baltica’s Baltic disinformation quarterly review about the use of TikTok.

Report on current issues, methodologies and needs in anti-disinformation actions

How does social media content diffuse societies? Building a predictive model based on public metrics of Facebook content

The aim of the research was to explore how Facebook’s public metrics can be used to predict content’s potential for virality and spread in society. 

To better understand the actual spread of information from Facebook, we mapped 10 viral posts on Facebook and then conducted an street survey (n=631) in Estonia, asking respondents if they had seen the content of these posts to measure what the actuarial reach of the posts was in society. Based on this data we we conducted regression analysis to determine the relationships between publicly available Facebook metrics and the post diffusion in society. Finally, we built a social media diffusion model that can predict reach of Facebook posts based on the public metrics.

The study shows that comments are the strongest factor in predicting the reach of posts and that actions by followers are not as influential as actions by people outside the content owner’s network.

Diana Poudel, University of Tartu