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EFCSN Statement on Operation Overload Report

By 04/06/2024June 5th, 2024No Comments3 min read
EFCSN Statement on Operation Overload Report

The recently released “Operation Overload: how pro-Russian actors flood newsrooms with fake content and seek to divert their efforts” report by CheckFirst with the support of exploring the cross-border disinformation campaign spreading pro-Russian propaganda showcases what the European Fact-Checking Standards Network community has always known and often experiences: Because of fact-checkers’ crucial work against disinformation, they are often targeted by rogue actors, such as those highlighted in this report, who do not like to be called on their lies.

Campaigns such as the one explored in the report are designed to target and overwhelm fact-checkers, making the work of fact-checkers more difficult, and highlights the importance of our collaborative work together as a community.

It speaks to the resilience of the EFCSN member organisations targeted that they were largely able to detect phoney tips, protect their editorial independence, and were not misled by this campaign. This is shown by the fact that many members identified such deceiving emails as part of the disinformation campaign early on and provided many of them to the researchers from CheckFirst and

The report collected and analysed content on social media platforms Telegram and X, over 200 emails provided by fact-checkers—including many EFCSN members—and monitored social media accounts, uncovering what the authors dub a “a large-scale, cross-country, multi-platform disinformation campaign designed to spread pro-Russian propaganda in the West, with clear indicators of foreign interference and information manipulation (FIMI).” This was achieved specifically by releasing a large amount of content across many platforms and in many formats, then strategically amplifying it.

“Rogue actors know that fact-checkers are the first line of defense against disinformation and that they provide the whole anti-disinformation community with data and tools to fight back. Tiplines are essential for many EFCSN members in their monitoring of disinformation, and it gives us confidence that so many of them were able to spot this attempt to mislead us and acted right away to protect their independence”, said Carlos Hernández- Echevarría, Chair of the European Fact-Checking Standards Network.

*Correction: An earlier version of this statement quoted an early draft version of the report, referring to “evidence” instead of “indicators” of FIMI; the correct quote now reads above.