Canada and its allies are wary of dangerous Russian online disinformation

Canada is especially wary of Russia’s state-sponsored disinformation campaign designed to confuse and deceive people, said Minister of Public Security Marco Mendicino.

In an interview, he said Russia is a belligerent and hostile actor when it comes to spreading untruth online, but he believes Canada is above the ground.

He warned that his government was preparing for Russian retaliation online for Canada for supporting Ukraine’s fight against aggression by Vladimir Putin’s military forces.

“Canada and all allies remain vigilant against Russian retaliation in the form of disinformation and foreign interference,” he said.

On Wednesday, Canada’s electronic spy agency posted on Twitter an update on Russia-backed disinformation, which is being monitored.

The Communications Security Agency said the Kremlin used a platform featuring anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and anti-globalist material to manipulate a global audience.

The surveillance agency, which monitors and interprets intelligence signals including online activity, revealed that Russia spread lies about Canada’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict using media it controls.

The Kremlin’s false narrative includes falsified images of members of the Canadian Armed Forces in Ukraine and false claims that Canadian soldiers committed war crimes.

Mendicino said Canada is a world leader in dealing with such threats and, with its allies, is using all the tools at its disposal to detect online fraud from Russia and to weaken its impact.

Canada and its allies on high alert for disinformation and Russian interference: @marcomendicino. #CDNPoly #Russia #Disinformation #UkraineRussia #UkraineInvasion

His remarks came after the government allocated $28 million in the budget to combat disinformation in Canada and by foreign actors such as Russia, China and Iran.

“Russia is a notoriously belligerent and hostile actor in this space. So are other state actors and that is why we remain vigilant,” he said.

Mendicino said calling for lies – including Putin’s assertion that the invasion of Ukraine was designed to de-Nazify the country – was an important first step to reducing the impact of disinformation.

He added Canada was working “very closely” with its G7 partners and the “Five Eyes” – the intelligence alliance between Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States – to combat disinformation, which he said was used to undermine democracy. around the world.

More than $13 million in the budget will be used to update and expand the G7 rapid response mechanism designed to detect and identify foreign interference and state-sponsored disinformation.

Further funding will help combat efforts to erode trust in government from within Canada, including $10 million “to coordinate, develop, and implement government measures designed to combat disinformation and protect our democracy.”

Mendicino warned that disinformation is being used by extremist groups, including white supremacists, to undermine trust in the Canadian government.

Bigots fuel hatred by spreading lies about Jews, Muslims and other minority groups, he said, often sucking in people with other grievances.

“One of the most damaging aspects of disinformation is how it can attract people who may be very tired and frustrated with things and draw them to far more sinister and extremist destinations,” he said.

Mendicino said the tactics to deliberately deceive people and distort the truth were used by some of the leaders of the so-called freedom convoy that occupied the streets of downtown Ottawa for three weeks.

He said lessons learned from the blockade included “how disinformation is being used as a tactic to confuse people and undermine their belief in democracy.”

He said the disinformation, which has been on the rise over the years, was “dividing and polarizing,” even though some of the untruths circulating “sound far-fetched.”

“The idea that Canada has become a dictatorship is the farthest thing you can get before you cross the wall,” he said. “But these things happen.”

Mendicino said the pandemic had created fertile ground for disinformation, pointing to what he said was a “very deliberate campaign to spread the line about vaccines.”

The minister said that not only untruths had to be exposed, but the government needed to educate the public so they could find material designed to mislead them. He said social media platforms had a key role to play in labeling misinformation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2022.

Laura Davis

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