Defending democracy through media literacy

By Jakub Kalenský, for Disinfo Portal
This is the transcript of a speech given by Jakub Kalenský at the International Workshop on Defending Democracy through Media Literacy in Taipei, Taiwan. Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, American Institute in Taiwan, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Swedish Trade and Investment Council in Taipei, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, the two-day event underscores the commitment of freedom-loving countries to combating disinformation and misinformation in the Indo-Pacific.

Dear president, dear deputy assistant secretary, dear excellencies and distinguished guests, dear ladies and gentlemen, let me express my gratitude to the organizers for being invited to this conference. It is my first time not only in Taiwan, but also my first time in Asia – and yet, I was given the privilege to give you the keynote speech and kick off this wonderful event. I am truly grateful for this, it is an honor.

It is also my first time I will be giving such a long speech – I don’t think I have ever spoken for forty minutes in one piece. I didn’t know people are giving such long speeches, at least since Fidel Castro is not with us. I will try my best not to be too boring.

As I mentioned, it is my first time on this continent, and therefore I feel the need to introduce myself properly.

My name is Jakub Kalenský, and I work for the US think tank Atlantic Council, you can see my profile here:

I have been working in the field of disinformation since 2015, when the European Union formed the team East StratCom, which is a task force designed to counter Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign. As one of the efforts, we were trying to raise the awareness about the Kremlin’s information aggression, and I was the team’s lead for that. You can find the work of my previous team on the EUvsDisinfo website, and I will have a chance to mention our work further during the speech:

In the Atlantic Council, I am again working on countering disinformation, and given it is a think tank and not a government institutions, we have a chance to communicate a bit more freely in certain regards. We are publishing articles and studies, and we are also promoting the work of other experts in this field on the DisinfoPortal. In case you would be interested, you can subscribe to our newsletter. If there’s anyone who would like to cooperate with us, we are always open to new partnerships and new cooperation

For quicker and less elaborate messaging, or simply for reading recommendations about the disinformation campaign, you can follow my Twitter account:

As I mentioned, I have been working on Russia’s disinformation campaign, since I studied Russian and I know the Russian information space a bit. I have to admit I am not the top expert on the disinformation campaigns of other actors in the world. However, according to a recent study from the Princeton University, Russia is responsible for 72 per cent of all the foreign influence operations in the world – meaning all the other actors combined are responsible only for one third of what Russia is doing. It appears that increasingly, other actors in the world are adapting Russia’s tactics and using the weapons that the Kremlin has been using in the past five years. I hope that the experience with this number one information aggressor will be applicable also to other information aggressors of this world.

I will try to describe what are the mechanisms of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, why is it a problem, and what can we do against it. I have elaborated these topics in my recent testimony for the US Congress, so if you want to get back to some of this, and find some more information with links to other materials on this matter, let me refer you to the testimony that we published on the DisinfoPortal:

Despite talking only about the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign, I sincerely hope that describing some of the mechanisms and achievements of this campaign can be helpful also here; and that some of the recommendations I have to offer might work also in other regions  and against other actors. My wish would be that you would not repeat some of the mistakes we have done in Europe. I am afraid that we have underestimated the problem, and that the disinformers are achieving results that will not be easily fixed.

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