Smearing Sweden: International Influence Campaigns in the 2018 Swedish Election

CHLOE COLLIVER, PETER POMERANTSEV, ANNE APPLEBAUM, JONATHAN BIRDWELL, OCTOBER 2018

This report presents the findings of a project that investigated foreign attempts to influence the 2018 Swedish elections online.

The project revealed the relative isolation of the Swedish far-right online, with few internationally coordinated efforts identified in the Swedish election information ecosystem. Online Scandinavian far-right networks made some attempts to seed disinformation and hate campaigns in Sweden through fringe platforms such as 4Chan and Discord, but these efforts were neither widespread or consistent.

Internationally, the research unearthed a consistent and concerning information campaign targeting Sweden’s reputation from far-right networks across the US, UK, France, Germany, Poland and Hungary. This campaign has also been promoted on an ongoing basis by Kremlin-sponsored media in various languages.

The report provides recommendations for steps that can be taken by Swedish and international policymakers, media and civil society in order to build a proportional and effective response to these kind of influence efforts.

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The Online Ecosystem of the German Far-Right

This report presents the findings of a research project of ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit about the alternative online-ecosystem of the far-right, including alternative social media platforms and alternative media outlets. While these platforms draw in a global audience this report focuses specifically on the German speaking and Germany-focused communities and outlets within this ecosystem. Drawing together ISD’s digital ethnographic work across dozens of forums and channels with the latest in machine learning and natural language processing, this report provides an overview over the size and nature of the far-right communities on these platforms the motivations for participating in these communities and assesses whether banning far-right groups from mainstream platforms leads to the displacement of their followers to ‘alternative’ platforms. We also analyse the role of alternative ‘news’ outlets in disseminating far right concepts, drawing on the‘Hate Observatory’, a joint initiative of ISD and the MIT Media Lab , based on their Media Cloud software, and compare the frequency and types of coverage of far-right themes in mainstream and alternative media. This report also recommends steps to be taken by tech companies, government, civil society and researchers to counter the far-right online.