Z - Or How Disinformation Fuels Protests
On this 9th edition of the Weekly Roundup of Protest Events - April 19, 2022
The discursus community is on a mission to break through our news echo chambers. We want to broaden our understanding of current events through wide ranging data harvesting and analytics-based analysis. And it all starts with one of the most foundational democratic phenomenon, protest movements.
Disinformation could probably be considered the social disease for our Internet era. It manifests itself in various ways, including in protest events. In this edition we are embarking on a journey to understand how disinformation sometimes fuel protest movements.
We, at discursus, want to play an active role in not only better understanding protests as they unfold, but also identifying the narratives that fuel them. And that includes the narratives that are anchored on falsehoods. We’ve seen examples of how lies or bending of the truth leads to protests, sometimes even riots.
To be clear, we’re not interested in engaging in information warfare. We want to help unveil how bad actors spread disinformation to radicalise our opinions, and how it leads to confrontation that spills in the outside world.
What we really care about at discursus is to preserve protest movements as an healthy democratic mean to express discontent and / or demand changes.
Not to be the battleground of extremists.
More on how discursus will position itself in regards to this problematic in an upcoming post.
Please visit our interactive monitoring dashboard for more in-depth data. It’s updated daily so you can follow protests events as they are streaming in.
Z - Or How Disinformation Fuels Protests
I remember a few days before Russia launched the latest wave of aggressions against Ukraine, Putin held a conference with german Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Putin talked on and on about not wanting war, but did say that there was a genocide happening in the Donbass.
That stood out to me (and probably to many others as well).
Where was the evidence for that? Turned out that it was only an element of a full set of narratives that aimed to disinform the public.
That distortion of facts is something we’re witnessing more and more. Those narratives spark online information wars which sometimes manifest themselves in the outside world.
Having witnessed first-hand the trucker’s convoy in Ottawa, I’ve seen how misinformation blurs the line between a legitimate expression of concerns by a group of people that feel they are victim of injustices, vs active disinformation to radicalise opinions and sow division.
“When you see signs calling for the execution of politicians, that’s not really a group that wants to engage in political dialogue... They’ve talked about (vaccine) mandates, but actually what I’ve heard is a lot of misinformation and anti-vax messaging coming from the forecourt,” she said.
And that is the problem with disinformation. It brings an element of extremism to a protest that might have been legitimate otherwise. It imposes its own agenda, corrupts the demands and further marginalises those that initially wanted to engage in a real social dialogue.
We saw reports lately of pro-Russian protests with vehicles showing the Z symbol, in Ireland and Germany.
The war in Ukraine, probably as with all wars, has fallen victim to disinformation. But those narratives, that were most probably for internal consumption only, are now being meshed with existing extremist discourses in “Western” countries.
“When Russian flags fly at anti-COVID rallies in Saxony, or when protesters march in front of the Russian Embassy and then shout slogans like 'Putin liberate us,' there's clearly an intersection of interests.”
Not only are pro-Russian disinformation galvanising public opinion in Russia in favor of the war, but it is also being used to further divide the democratic resiliency in the “West”.
So what does this all have to do with discursus?
As stated at the top of this newsletter, discursus is on a mission to help us break through our news echo chambers. But we don’t want to contribute to the spread of misinformation as well. We feel that to really achieve our mission, we must first and foremost expose disinformation.
How can discursus help identify the disinformation that is spreading through online communities early and see how online radicalisation is manifesting itself (and corrupting) protest movements.
That is the next phase of our project’s evolution and we’ll explore that topic further next week.
Elsewhere around the world
🇬🇧 Climate action by Extinction Rebellion and other similar activist groups are continuing to disrupt UK’s transport and energy sectors...
🇦🇺 ...as well as in Australia
🇵🇸🇮🇱 Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters during Ramadan turns violent
🇸🇪 Riots in Sweden as far-right group plans rallies which include the burning of the Qur'an
🇱🇰 Protests are still going strong in Sri Lanka, where the population demands the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.