In Finland, the response of democracies is organized in the face of hybrid threats

In Finland, the response of democracies is organized in the face of hybrid threats

An appointment was made at the end of May at the European Center of Excellence for Hybrid Coe in Helsinki, on the floors of an ordinary building in the heart of the Finnish capital. In one large room, several tables were grouped together to accommodate five teams. The first, the “White”, organizes the exercise. Les “Red” – disinformation experts – they will play the “bad guys” for two days: Russia first, then China. Les “Greens”, finally, they actually form three teams: the international institutions, represented by officials of the European Union (EU) and NATO; the media, played by Finnish journalists; influencers and trolls.

The exercise takes place online. For several hours, at a distance, a sixth team, the “Blue” – those responsible for “strategic communication” in four EU and NATO member countries, whose names we are not allowed to mention – will try to defuse fictitious disinformation campaigns social networks by the “Red”relying on the “Greens”.

Positive messages, rude lies, manipulations, trolling… Nothing is forbidden. To the four countries participating in the training to do their best to impose their message, in the face of campaigns that are sometimes difficult to identify and whose purpose is to create disorder. The starting point is the current world, but as the game progresses, the organizers add elements of international tension – which we can’t reveal either – concocting a fairly realistic scenario.

For all four countries, stressors are on the rise, leading to a situation of hybrid warfare, making it increasingly difficult to identify the true and the wrong. “The power of hybrid activities is to push you to overreact and make decisions that hurt you, while benefiting your opponent.” comments Hanna Smith, director of research and analysis at Hybrid Coe. For example, when a democracy begins to react like an authoritarian state, by restricting freedoms. »

“No country is immune”

“The goal of the exercise is to raise awareness and provide participants with the opportunity to practice the best approaches to identifying and responding to misinformation in a safe environment.”, says his colleague, Shiho Rybski, director of training at Hybrid Coe. While the military is accustomed to training and countries are testing their cyber defense capabilities, disinformation exercises are still rare, as “They are not easy to organize”acknowledges Mme Rybski.

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