Since the 2012 Obama election (see the Narwhal project) and the Egypt Arab Spring, political forces and international players have become aware of the power of Digital for cultural and political change – some of them not for the best goals, such as terrorist and extremist groups as ISIS, dictators who want to keep a grip on the public perception of their country, or even yet political players who want to prep a traditional military invasion of another country by using digital warfare beforehand in a combined hybrid offensive strategy.
Everywhere in the world – and EU as well – there is a rise of the Far Right (currently going by the name of Alt Right) fueled by fake news, bots, armies of fake profiles on social networks, paid digital advertising, criptocurrency-funding, in conjunction with more classic digital warfare approaches: hacking of opponent parties servers (such as Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, and more recently all the parties in Germany except the AfD), spoofing of official presences, doxxing of activists/political opponents data (see Wikileaks), online bullying, trojan-horsing (the Ukrainian 2014 election, for example), data weaponizing (such as the Cambridge Analytica case), recruitment & radicalization, etc.
This is combined as well with massive amounts of propagada content such as blogposts, memes, video, podcasts, etc that give rise to «alt-right celebrities» that end up giving their testimonies in traditional media and offline outpost and events, such as demonstrations and Universities’ conferences and even radio and TV shows. Sometimes, even new media outposts that spread both credible content mixed with blatant propaganda are created to hide their real purpose (see In The Now, for instance).
Their goal is to communicate a sense of urgency, either by railing up against ethnic and/or religious minorities, LGBT communities, ecologists, feminists, refugees, discredit the Left Wing and the more centristic politicians (even if they are Right Wing), democratic institutions, such as courts, EU, journalists, Science.
This sense of urgency makes people feel threatened enough to be more flexible to accept populist and charismatic leaders, even if they have no real political agenda (see Salvini, Le Pen, Bolsonaro) and even if they defend a violent, regressive agenda, on top of a liberal economy in favor of the top tier of the population and against the more disenfranchised – who paradoxically support them in troves.
It is time for the EU to create a joint trans-national multidisciplinary task force that can detect and prevent attacks and interferences of foreign belligerent forces in our democracies and our democratic elections, detect collaborationism with these very same forces within EU and treat them as organized terrorist forces, track criptocurrency and traditional currency movements that give these groups a new energy and much more.
At the same time, another arm must be created to ensure education of the European pupulation on digital literacy, fact-check propaganda in real-time, create digital presences that can talk to people and serve them in chats in real-time, to connect them with the whole EU project and produce content that educate people on general topics such as Democracy and the European project.
The whole Digital project has then to provide legislators practical knowledge that will enpower them to create legislation to bring these bad actors to court and secure our Democracy, including demanding real accountability to digital platforms, whether big, such as Facebook, Google or Twitter, but also smaller, more specific (and more prone to extremist infections) platforms such as GAB.
This is actually a starting point, but there is already a lot here to unpack.