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UK government want to use “friendly influencers” to combat Russian disinformation

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You might have blinked and missed it – but the (geo)political specter of “Russia threat” has resurfaced. This time, the ever-elusive beastie has been spotted in the UK, and some urgent action on the internet is now officially warranted.

The latest sighting has been reported by members of the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, resulting in headlines about “Moscow’s malign influence in the British establishment” becoming “the new normal.”

That sounds worse than coronavirus – so what is happening here?

Well – that dramatic statement is followed by this damper:

“Report, which took evidence from Britain’s security services, found no evidence to suggest Russia had successfully meddled in Brexit.”

So which is it? Russians care to meddle – or no?

Because you cannot really have any kind of “influence” without it also being “successful.” Just ask UK government officials who are now under pressure to fight this “Russian threat” by enlisting “successful influencers.”

The parliamentary report, notwithstanding its ambiguous “highly-likely” glory, apparently cannot quite stand on its own merit. Therefore it needs help – essentially, to “pile pressure on Boris Johnson to take a tougher line with Vladimir Putin.”

But given how badly relations between the UK and Russia have deteriorated since the 2016 US presidential election – short of a hot war – what would “a tougher line” actually mean here?

Hopefully, “friendly influencers” – now in the process of being enlisted by UK’s government – are aware of all the nuances of the situation, as they are to “build bridges to skeptical audiences” – as an apparent and dangerous way for UK’s government to burn each, and every last official bridge it still has standing to Russia.

Nevertheless, here’s the Telegraph once again: A “toolkit” has reportedly been distributed to all UK government departments, who are to fight “fake news.”

Any lies coming from the Russians should be countered and exposed by “friendly influencers (…) a valuable means of building bridges to skeptical audiences, particularly if they are seen as an objective source of credible information.”

But how do you do that?

“(Disinformation) narratives often have an impact because they are sensational and attention-grabbing. Your communications will need to be edgy and interesting enough to compete…”

(But if Russians are actually your competitors – you might want to rethink that whole last point. Because real talk – good luck trying to “out-edge” those guys.)

In any case – the UK government toolkit also features some actual sound references as to how anyone might fight and hope to maybe win online wars these days – “explain things clearly by avoiding jargon, and using images.”

But only time will tell who, if anyone, is listening to any of this.

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