Kvinna som håller i en mobil.

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Strong support for decisive measures against information influence

A clear majority of Swedes support the EU's 2022 decision to block the state-backed platforms RT/Sputnik from broadcasting in Europe. This is demonstrated in a study recently published in the journal European Security.

In 2022, the EU decided to block the Russian channels RT/Sputnik until the large-scale invasion of Ukraine ends and Russia ceases spreading disinformation and exerting information influence against the EU and its member states.

"Our study shows that an overwhelming majority of Swedes – 81 percent – fully support the decision, while an additional 14 percent partially support it. A majority also believes that the EU's arguments are legitimate, but the blockage should be removed once the war is over," says Charlotte Wagnsson, professor of political science at the Swedish Defence University.

Results from official Eurobarometer polls, conducted on behalf of the European Commission or the European Parliament, show that support for the decision is also strong in most other EU countries.

Increased efforts against harmful information influence

Respondents in the study also want to see further and alternative measures against disinformation and information influence.

"They are calling for greater efforts to educate in source criticism and spread awareness about the problem of harmful information influence. But they also want to see strengthened Swedish journalism and initiatives from Swedish authorities, to ensure that correct information is disseminated and false information is countered," says Charlotte Wagnsson.

Despite the support for the blockage, a significant portion of respondents are aware of and concerned about the issues of censorship, questioning, for instance, who should have the authority to determine what information is permissible.

"At the same time, many believe that we cannot be passive and must take collective responsibility to prevent the spread of disinformation in society. Both the state and citizens should contribute," says Charlotte Wagnsson.

Large-scale survey reflecting Sweden's population

The study was conducted with focus group interviews with a total of 65 Swedes of various ages. The results from the interviews were then used to construct questions for a large-scale survey (1,007 respondents) with a representative sample of the Swedish population.

Revision of strategies to counter information influence

The results have contributed to the revision of a theoretical analysis model that Charlotte Wagnsson and Maria Hellman, senior lecturer at the Department of Economic History, Stockholm University, launched in 2017 in the article "How can European states respond to Russian information warfare? An analytical framework." There, they discussed four main strategies to counter information influence: confrontation, blocking, disseminating correct information about Sweden, and relying on existing media and institutions without confronting the perpetrator of harmful information influence.

"The new results have led to a new category we call fortifying, which involves strengthening civil society and individuals, among other things, by disseminating information about the problem and through education in source criticism and digital information management," says Charlotte Wagnsson.

Measures to handle attacks on democracy

She believes that the results are relevant for citizens and policymakers when considering how to handle attacks on democracy.

"Harmful information influence aims, among other things, to damage democracy, and it's crucial to find effective countermeasures. If a measure designed to protect democracy instead turns out to undermine it, that's problematic."

The study's results show that support was also strong for decisive measures, but there were still concerns that the blockage could undermine democracy.

"We want to stimulate thinking around the pros and cons of different countermeasures, but also show how strong the support for censorship – and other measures – actually is," says Charlotte Wagnsson.

Josefin Svensson


Charlotte Wagnsson, Maria Hellman and Aiden Hoyle (2024): Securitising information in European borders: how can democracies balance openness with curtailing Russian malign information influence?, European Security.

Maria Hellman and Charlotte Wagnsson (2017): How can European states respond to Russian information warfare? An analytical framework, European Security.

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