Malign forces are using disinformation to undermine democracy in Scotland – Angus Robertson MSP

Chances are you’ve heard of terms like: fake news, deep fake, trolling, troll farms and bots.

Stewart McDonald MP has written a report about the threat posed by disinformation in Scotland (Picture: John Devlin)
Stewart McDonald MP has written a report about the threat posed by disinformation in Scotland (Picture: John Devlin)

These are some of the ways in which public discourse and opinion forming is being impacted in 21st century Scotland

Disinformation is not a new phenomena but, with the proliferation of social media and bad actors, we are facing a significant challenge. Across the democratic world, malign forces are at play to destabilise and undermine liberal democratic society, including Scotland.

In the first document of its kind, Glasgow South MP Stewart McDonald has published a report entitled ‘Disinformation in Scottish Public Life’, which assesses recent disinformation activity in Scotland, including during the Covid-19 pandemic and political campaigns.

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As the report highlights, “disinformation campaigns allow hostile foreign states to discreetly target and influence citizens while remaining below the threshold of war, fomenting distrust and polluting the information ecosystem”.

Neighbouring northern European countries like Sweden and Finland have been taking the threat seriously for some time with the provision of information resilience training and mass awareness campaigns.

The Swedish government has created an authority to “discover, counter, and prevent influence campaigns and disinformation, both nationally and internationally”.

In Finland the National Audiovisual Institute helps oversee the development of a safe media environment for children and children’s media skills and helps schools teach media literacy.

Public debate on disinformation in Scotland is only just beginning, but we are going to have to take the subject much more seriously. Stewart McDonald has done us all a service by publishing his timely report. It should be widely read.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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