Western responses to Russian disinformation have been weak and uncoordinated. Most democratic countries have relied on defensive measures, such as media literacy programs and pressure on social networks. Jamestown Senior Fellow Thomas Kent proposes energetic new efforts to expose Russian narratives and to promote democratic values that many in the West have lost faith in. Kent finds many governments reluctant to take on Kremlin disinformation, for fear of retaliation or of becoming “propagandists” themselves. Focusing on Europe, Africa and Latin America, he proposes stepped-up government action—along with more support for the little-publicized army of non-government actors who are already at work confronting Russian trolls, exposing secret Russian operations and defending democracy. More government and private aid to these activists, and to journalists and fact-checkers in key areas, could be a significant counterweight to Russian operations. Kent also calls for more Western messaging to Russia’s own citizens.
Striking Back describes how new campaigns against Russian disinformation could be run, the ethical questions involved, and the pros and cons of the West engaging in covert strategies.
About the Author
Thomas Kent, a Senior Fellow of The Jamestown Foundation, teaches about disinformation and Russian affairs at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. He consults for media, government and civil society organizations on disinformation and journalism ethics. He was president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and was Moscow bureau chief, international editor and ethics editor of The Associated Press.
Praise for Striking Back
“The digital age has seen unprecedented opportunities for subversion, both from hostile states as well as extremist groups. Democracies have been slow to react and find strategies to use the new information opportunities for good. We need to hurry. This book is a timely guide on how to go about it.”
—Peter Pomerantsev, author of This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality
“An excellent analysis of the problem of offensive disinformation campaigns and how to respond to them. Thomas Kent has unparalleled experience in directly dealing with this issue. He demonstrates the skill of a seasoned investigative journalist in clearly laying out the facts and the range of possible solutions.”
—Fiona Hill, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution