Slovakia grapples with fake news after Figo attack – Euractive TE

After the assassination attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Figo on Wednesday (May 15), misinformation about the incident began to circulate on social media. Behind the development lies deep problems in the country due to misinformation.

EU Commission officials told a briefing on Thursday (May 16) that they were monitoring the situation “very closely”, including with external resources.

The Commission is investigating the effectiveness of X’s “Social Notes” feature in combating misinformation regarding the attack on Fico. This is in line with the investigation announced in December 2023, an official said.

On the one hand, the Slovakian accounts spread misinformation about the political views of the attackers. They portrayed him as a radical liberal who wanted to overthrow Fico, who was widely seen as a populist.

On the other hand, international accounts tried to link the attack to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the World Health Organization.

Dominika Hajdu of the Slovak think tank GLOBSEC explained in an interview with Euractiv on Thursday (May 16) that the misinformation circulating on Slovak social media surrounding the assassination attempt was “mostly related to domestic politics”.

Hajdu believes that disinformation is relatively calm, suggesting a sense of sanity in a very serious situation.

However, other experts Uractive contacted contradicted Hajdu’s assessment.

Domestic disinformation corresponds to the situation the government has been promoting to date, explained Pavol Hartos of Comenius University in Bratislava.

The machine gun worked to link the shooter to Fico’s opposition and specifically the Progressive Slovakia Party, said Hortos, who is also involved in a Czech-Slovak database of disinformation websites.

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“The misinformation is portraying the national opposition, the civilian sector and the media as being responsible for or directly related to the shooter,” Hartos explained.

The professor pointed to an earlier rumor that the attacker was Ukrainian, but that was quickly dismissed when police identified him.

Some of the rumors came from sources who had spread pro-Kremlin propaganda in the past, but it was difficult to say who was behind the sites, Hajdu said.

According to Elv.ai, a Bratislava-based content moderation company, problematic online activity such as hate comments increased by 60 percent after the attack.

Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “Slovakia still has more people […]”We believe that the United States poses a greater threat to Slovakia’s security than Russia,” said defense expert Viktor Breiner.

Russian and Ukrainian perspective

Speculation about the role of Russia and Ukraine is central to English-language misinformation.

Budapest journalist Szabolcs Panyi published a photo

The photo came from a 2016 post on the group’s Facebook page, the journalist said in his post. At the time of writing, the post has already been viewed 2.8 million times.

However, other X accounts tried to deny the photo’s authenticity. Although Slovenski Franci was found on Facebook page, they said it was created using artificial intelligence.

“There were many pro-Russian hoaxes about the attacker, including debunked claims that he was a ‘leftist’, a Ukrainian citizen, a Ukrainian grandfather, a progressive Slovakia activist, and more. [Behauptungen] are made without evidence,” journalist Panyi told Euractiv by email on Thursday.

Accounts with tens of thousands of followers said Bani’s post was a Ukrainian disinformation campaign surrounding the assassination attempt.

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Alex Jones, a conservative American radio host convicted of spreading conspiracy theories, also spoke out.

“Fico promoted a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine and promised to block Ukraine’s entry into NATO. That’s why they tried to kill him,” he wrote in X.

Another conspiracy theory circulating in English is about Fico’s stance on the World Health Organization (WHO) and Corona.

“The assassination attempt comes days after Fico officially and publicly rejected the WHO’s global pandemic agreement,” wrote a self-proclaimed “conspiracy realist” account in Concerned Citizen on X.

Right-wing Republican US Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Green supported this theory in her own X-Post.

But Hartos says it is “not a major topic of discussion” in Slovakia. The professor explained that the country is “really engaged in an internal, polarized struggle between a liberal, nationalist, right-wing camp and a more democratic, liberal, pro-European and pro-NATO camp”.

Brynner noted that “Ukrainian war images or images of the shooter at demonstrations organized by the political opposition have been photoshopped.”

Given the importance of the event, the themes of misinformation are “everything and everywhere”.

The groups behind the false reports are “highly coordinated” and “instrumentalize everything and every story.”

They will find the “right angle” to appeal to international and Slovak audiences, Breiner added.

[Bearbeitet von Rajnish Singh]

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