1st EEAS Report on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference Threats: Towards a Framework for Networked Defence

Source — EUvsDiSiNFO — February 2023 —

This first edition of the report on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference threats is informed by the work of the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) Stratcom division8 in 2022. It is the first of its kind and can be seen as a pilot project.

See the full report here.

It applies a novel framework developed by the EEAS, based on best case practices of the FIMI defender community, to a first sample of 100 FIMI incidents detected and analysed between October and December 2022. It therefore does not intend to give a comprehensive overview of FIMI in general or of a specific actor, but highlight how the existing analysis can be enhanced through this approach. In this report the EEAS uses best case practice methodology to allow for informed judgements of ongoing FIMI activities, actors and threat levels. It is therefore a useful tool to support informed and analysis based policy choices. The main findings of this report, based on the samples used, are:

1st EEAS Report on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference Threats: Towards a Framework for Networked Defence — EUvsDiSiNFO

■ Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine dominates observed FIMI activity. Ukraine and its representatives have been the direct target of 33 incidents. In 60 out of 100 incidents, supporting the invasion was the main motivation behind the attack.

■ Diplomatic channels are an integral part of FIMI incidents. Russia’s diplomatic channels regularly serve as enablers of FIMI operations. They are deployed across wide range of topics. China also uses diplomatic channels, mostly targeting the US.

■ Impersonation techniques become more sophisticated. Impersonations of international and trusted organisations and individuals are used by Russian actors particularly to target Ukraine. Print and TV media are most often impersonated, with magazines seeing their entire style copied.

■ FIMI actor collusion exists but is limited. Official Russian actors were involved in 88 analysed FIMI incidents. Chinese actors were involved in 17. In at least 5 cases, both actors engaged jointly.

■ FIMI is multilingual. Incidents do not occur in just one language; content is translated and amplified in multiple languages. Incidents featured at least 30 languages, 16 of which are EU-languages. Russia used a larger variety of languages than Chinese actors but 44% of Russian content targeted a Russian-speaking populations, while 36% targeted English-speaking populations.

■ FIMI is mostly intended to distract and distort. Russia (42%) and China (56%) mostly intend to direct attention to a different actor or narrative or to shift blame (“distract”). Russia attempts to change the framing and narrative (“distort”) relatively more often (35%) than China (18%).

■ FIMI remains mostly image and video based. The cheap and easy production and distribution of image and video material online makes these formats still the most commonly used.

The report contributes to the implementation of the Strategic Compass’ call for a FIMI Data Space.

The EEAS aims to provide the FIMI defender community with a proof-of-concept for a common framework that enables mutual sharing of complex insights in a timely fashion and at scale. This is done to create a common understanding and formulate a collective, systematic response to FIMI.

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