Disinformation websites and their readers in Czechia are decreasing

Social media users and groups, on the other hand, are playing a greater role in spreading disinformation.

Expats.cz Staff ČTK

Written by Expats.cz StaffČTK Published on 20.04.2023 10:30:00 (updated on 20.04.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The number of disinformation websites and their readers is decreasing annually. Their role has recently been adopted by individuals and groups operating on social media, according to an analysis of the Czech disinformation scene for 2022 by the Security Center of European Values (BCEH) released Wednesday.

The BCEH studies mainly disinformation related to foreign policy issues, security, and the coronavirus.

According to the BCEH, the most frequently discussed topics on disinformation websites are the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine and the Czech government's response to it, and alleged censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech. At the beginning of 2022, the Covid pandemic was also still a relevant topic.

In 2022, the Czech disinformation scene consisted of 39 active and relevant disinformation websites, seven fewer than in 2021. The monitored websites together published 126,826 articles in the year, a decrease of about 70,000 compared to 2021.

According to the study's author Veronika Krátka Špalková, the decline was caused by the retreat of the coronavirus pandemic, the temporary blocking of some sites after the Russian invasion of Ukraine by European governments and the EU, and the fact that the operation of some sites was no longer profitable for their owners. Some NGOs in the Czech Republic are working to prevent advertisers from cooperating with disinformation sites.

What counts as 'disinformation'?

If the BCEH is to classify a website as "disinformation," it must meet several conditions.

These include the dissemination of demonstrable disinformation in favor of Russia or about the coronavirus, no distinction between opinion and news content, and average monthly traffic of at least 2,000 people per month, and the publication of at least five articles per month. Websites that spread disinformation, for example, about outer space or cancer treatment are not dealt with by the BCEH in its work.

Krátka Špalková said that a significant trend over the last two years is the mobilizing potential of disinformation websites. Their articles either directly call for demonstrations and provide media space for their organizers or report on what goes on at the demonstrations.

Compared to previous years, however, fewer politicians are giving interviews to the media in question. In addition to the Czech disinformation website Parlamentní listy, Czech politicians also gave interviews to Sputnik, a website run by the Russian state news agency, in the past.

Sputnik was banned throughout the EU after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and cannot be accessed from the EU without using an advanced virtual private network (VPN). The blockage has also had an impact on Sputnik's content.

"The number of articles focusing on the Czech Republic and Slovakia has decreased and the number of texts directly taken from Russian channels with at least partial machine translation has increased," the BCEH report said.

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