Moscow hackers are swimming in a big pool of themes, that might influence Germany negatively. They, as we can ready in most media, both European and not, have already prepared the base for fears. Europeans might have been undergoing years of brainwashing and manipulations- so Die Welt, Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Allegmeine Zeitung. German readers are presented with scarse information on that matter, derived from a non- published report prepared by the government.
So far it hasn’t been decided, on whether the report should be made public, and to what extent. This indicates, that there might have been some serious violations of security and make their subjects laughable and vulnerable; also, openly indicating Russian government’s involvement sounds like a Trumpian style of managing foreign relations. Nevertheless, in the early 2015 the German Bundestag (parliament) is thought to have been subjected to a Russian cyber- attack.
With or without the report we can expect German government to take some steps. Following the statement of the General Secretary of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, “Any attempt to interfere with or influence national elections from outside is unacceptable”, one can expect the government to undertake certain security policy, even if it’s not officially anti-Russian.
It is not only in the interest of ISIS to influence the election results by blowing up innocent people, but also Russia’s. Both terrorist and cyber-attacks make European Union vulnerable, primarily by means of impeding the economic growth or obscuring the controversial facts about international deals. Some point out to the process of alienating EU from US, that might be the high priority of the Russian government. But in the background, there are masses of citizens undergoing continuous process of disinformation and secondary illiteracy, that is making people prone to believe in everything they find on the social media and distrust anything, that might not meet their expectancy of controversy. Media has to adjust to the needs of its receivers and has been doing it for too long a time, creating the craziest headlines for the least exciting news to get more clicks on their websites. While one can’t blame the media for responding to the demand, it is also impossible not to mention its unwitting impact.
It isn’t a difficult job, to add to the controversy. Fake news has a nature of the weed: once planted, you never get rid of it. One can use weed repellents, such as European brand new “(…) directive on the security of networks and data systems (NIS Directive), (…) issued EU-wide rules on cyber security in August 2016”, and check once and then how it works. Usually the result won’t be known until the next season. Another “fake news repellent” could be an initiative by NATO and European Union: European Centre for Defense of Hybrid Threats that should come to life this year.
Also, on the 6th of April 2016, “the European Union adopted a Joint Communication on countering hybrid threats in order to activate a coordinated response at EU level and to build on European solidarity, mutual assistance and the Lisbon Treaty”. So far, the hybrid threats have been related to the Ukraine conflict and the ISIL/Da'esh campaign in Iraq, but 2017 brings about unprecedented events. Now, the hybrid attacks might not be related to any conflict or war, but to the most important democratic process: the elections. Truth be told, Germans aren’t the only victims of such manipulations. The outcome of US elections, that enraged many people all over the world, has probably been partly the effect of a disinformation campaign. This shouldn’t come as surprising, since a decade ago it was clear to everyone, that we live in the age of information. It is neither the age of facts, nor the age of truth. It is the age of information and beliefs.
The document called the Joint framework on countering hybrid threats is an outcome of cooperation between European Parliament and European Council. The document, being 18 pages long, has named the threat of cyber-attacks being able to “control the political narrative or to radicalize, recruit and direct proxy actors” in its introduction. It names steps, that should be undertaken both by the European Union and its member states separately. Several institutions are formed, such as a Hybrid Fusion Cell (responsible for the analysis of cyber threats) and other gain new tasks. European External Action Service must now enhance its strategic communication skills, which includes playing on its linguistic and social media strengths. (For those, who know strategic non- European languages and are social media specialists, this might be a career boost. Refugee status might disqualify, but not necessarily). Among a variety of measures European Commision underlines the use of social media channels for extremist’s recruitment and brainwashing purposed and proposes the ways to tackle such threats in a legal way. For example, “The Syria Strategic Communication Advisory Team aims to reinforce the development and dissemination of alternative messages to counter terrorist propaganda”. Many may think, that launching a positive propaganda is mere tilting at windmills, and they are probably right. Among those is Jens Stoltenberg himself: "Open debates (…) are the best way to counter this information and propaganda", he says.
The question is, if any of the above will be able to protect German social media from the flood of fake news. The elections will take place in the autumn, but the protective umbrellas are still in creation. Open debates based on facts take ages to come to an end, and politicians don’t have ages. They are facing the masses who are ready to vote against whatever they are angry about. Citizens ready to act out, spill their anger, punish someone, not willing to listen to the other side, believing, that they haven’t been listened to. And to change that belief, to explain, present points of view, reasons for actions and mechanisms of today’s world until the election, is a real tilting with windmills.
Meanwhile, the radical parties exist and thrive in Germany. Only this Tuesday will the question about the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NPD) be asked again. Should it be delegalized or maybe left in peace as meaningless? The dilemma is not an easy one to solve: so far, the NPD wasn’t a threat to democracy, but nowadays their election result might spin like a bullet if only given a chance. “When people feel abandoned, they look for a strong power, and if necessary, they will forgo some things so that they can enjoy some safety (…)”- a comment on Facebook under an article by FAZ.NET says it all.
- Geheimdienste warnen vor russischen Cyber-Attacken, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/drohende-manipulationsversuche-geheimdienste-warnen-vor-russischen-cyber-attacken-14648461.html
- Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats, https://ccdcoe.org/sites/default/files/documents/EU-160406-JointFrameworkOnCounteringHybridThreats.pdf
- EU Policy on Fighting Hybrid Threats, https://ccdcoe.org/eu-policy-fighting-hybrid-threats.html
- BND wirft Russland gezielte Stimmungsmache vor, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/russland-deutsche-geheimdienste-werfen-moskau-gezielte-stimmungsmache-vor-a-1129853.html.
- Ist die NPD mittlerweile zu unbedeutend, um verboten zu werden?, https://www.facebook.com/faz/?fref=ts
 Geheimdienste warnen vor russischen Cyber-Attacken,
 BND wirft Russland gezielte Stimmungsmache vor, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/russland-deutsche-geheimdienste-werfen-moskau-gezielte-stimmungsmache-vor-a-1129853.html, 15.01.2017.
 Geheimdienste warnen vor russischen Cyber-Attacken…
 EU Policy on Fighting Hybrid Threats, https://ccdcoe.org/eu-policy-fighting-hybrid-threats.html, 14.01.2017.
 Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats, https://ccdcoe.org/sites/default/files/documents/EU-160406-JointFrameworkOnCounteringHybridThreats.pdf, 14.01.2017.
 Geheimdienste warnen vor russischen Cyber-Attacken, ibidem.