Incident & Crisis Management, Training & Exercise Management (Civilian)
MSB: Countering disinformation in Sweden
March 05, 2020
Background: With the tools to produce and share information, readily available to virtually everybody, fact checking is becoming increasingly more difficult, as bots and fake experts from fake institutes feed the spread of false information, 24/7. As part of a nation-wide programme to support government agencies in countering this rise in disinformation, 4C Strategies has been training government officials across Sweden.
Challenge: Prepare government agencies and county administrative boards to effectively counter information influence activities, in accordance with industry best practices.
Solution: The Implementation and training programme is a 4C Strategies programme built on tailored scenarios. It is designed to help people – with little or no experience of disinformation tactics – to increase their ability to work collaboratively to counter information influence.
Benefits: Having worked with real-life scenarios, participants have the right procedures in place and the confidence in their abilities to manage and counter disinformation.
With information influence continually on the rise and antagonists looking to destabilise countries, regions and industries through the spread of fake news and disinformation, 4C Strategies was approached by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to help prepare government agencies and county administrative boards nationwide to counter this threat.
It was important to start with a varied group of participants in order to represent a diverse range of organisations. Bringing people together from different organisations allows for a collaborative approach and prevents participants from feeling isolated. It also speeds up the learning process and helps attendees understand the importance of collaboration when countering information influence.
A model to evaluate risk with NATO StratCom COE
4C Strategies works with risk, continuity and crisis management to build organisational resilience. During 2019 4C helped NATO Stratcom with concept development to assess vulnerabilities and risks relating to public opinion and political decision making within the framework of hybrid threats.
With events planned around the country, it was time to roll out the programme with one-day training workshops in each region. The programme involved a series of exercises throughout the day to help attendees:
Understand the problem and the potential scale of the task
Identify potential information influence
Understand who the target group is
Analyse how the target audience can be impacted
Create strategies and processes for countering information
Learn proven techniques for proactive communication.
“The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) is the leading authority on countering information influence. It‘s an honour to support organisations on behalf of MSB. As well-renowned trainers and exercise managers at 4C Strategies, we can implement MSB best practices at any organisation in the world.”
Maria Pålsson, Senior Consultant at 4C Strategies
“Too often, people assume they have to engage with antagonists, but that’s just playing into their hands”, continues Maria Pålsson. “Reasoning with an antagonist is a great way to lose at information warfare. A rule of thumb is to always stick to your strategic narratives. When you know your target groups and what’s at stake for them, you can reassure them that you are the trusted source for information.”
Learning by doing
In total, 15 programmes were held throughout the country, with around 200 attendees from 55 governmental agencies, county councils and municipalities. Doing scenario exercises in smaller groups like this allows all participants to share their experiences and get a real sense of what is at stake. People quickly learn that everyone has to be vigilant to spot fake news and misinformation. At the same time, clear lines of responsibility in an organisation ensure individuals know how to escalate any concerns so the right action can be taken.
In one typical exercise, participants were challenged to analyse target groups and worked through a series of questions to develop a strategic narrative. In another exercise they were presented with information influence from tailored scenarios and were asked to use tools to identify who was behind the message.
“In total, 15 implementation and training programmes were held throughout Sweden, with around 200 attendees from 55 governmental agencies, county councils and municipalities.”
Maria Pålsson, Senior Consultant at 4C Strategies
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Learn more about how 4C Strategies can support your organisation in countering disinformation.
“Typically, government agencies conduct extensive risk analysis programmes every four years,” says Pålsson. “A lot can happen in that time. Holding smaller-scale exercises like this can prove really beneficial for the organisations and the people they serve.”
Putting learnings into practice
After one day of training and exercises, it’s time for the participants to put their learnings into practice. As it is something that most of them have to do in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, they are usually quick to involve others within the organisation. Based on their learnings, they can quickly put processes into place that didn’t exist before and share and agree on strategic narratives.
“Through this series of exercises, we gave attendees the tools and confidence to counter information influence,” concludes Maria Pålsson. “In today’s society where entire industries and countries are being targeted by antagonists, preparing staff to for this is essential. If you want a proven team to help your organisation adopt and act on best practices, 4C Strategies is the ideal partner.”
4C Strategies supports the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) with expertise on resilient communication related to their programme Shared Waters Partnership. “When people are not sure if they can be confident that their water is safe, or trust information about water, it affects the whole society,” according to 4C Strategies Consultants Linda Stensdotter Renman and Robin Von Euler. Read more
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