Publication Date: May 2023

Europe, and the world in general, are living in a period of important change. Economics, society, and health are confronting many uncertainties. These changes have also led, among other consequences, to increased disinformation and radicalization. The information environment has been, therefore, dramatically transformed. Populism is flourishing as a consequence of the erosion of liberal democratic ideals, causing societal divisions. 

Due to this contemporary information disorder (as disinformation is referred to in this paper), especially online, resilience to disinformation is crucial. National resilience has been defined with simple words as “a structural context in which disinformation does not reach a large number of citizens”. Research shows resilience is context-dependent, with factors varying among countries. Studies highlight political environments, news consumption, social media use, and populist support as relevant factors. The study stresses that resilience can be defined in a more comprehensive way as “societies’ ability to maintain their democratic structure and to resist and/or oppose misleading information and anti-democratic influences”. It requires an examination of macro, meso, and micro-level factors to have a comprehensive definition of resilience.

To explore resilience factors, the brief presents 30 comparative statistics and indices from eight reputable open-access sources. These indicators cover contextual-structural, media-institutional, and individual-consumption aspects at macro, meso, and micro levels. While the selection is not exhaustive, it aims to highlight diverse dimensions with various comparative data.

When comparing Finland and Lithuania, they show similarities and differences in resilience indicators against online disinformation. Both countries have small national media markets, are EU members, and share concerns about foreign interference and propaganda due to their proximity to Russia. In terms of media plurality and media landscapes, the two countries face similar issues. Trust, on the other side, shows differences. Lithuanians find disinformation as a huge issue, while Finnish people are more affected by surging societal polarization. For historical reasons, related to the Russian influence over the country, Lithuania and the Baltic countries are still affected by Russian propaganda. With this geographical proximity, disinformation impacts social, economic, and political spheres, damaging the levels of confidence in media of Lithuanians. For this reason, Lithuanians trust more social media than national media outlets.

Differences between Finland and Lithuania suggest the need to adopt different strategies to favour national resilience. Lithuanian experts stress the importance of education as a solution to resilience, advocating for a better education. Finnish experts emphasise societal inequalities and polarisation as central issues for the country, advocating for transparent and more independent journalism. They also propose upgrading media literacy practices to match the evolution of the digital environment. 

The main issue is not only how the anti-disinformation system works, but also understanding stakeholders attitudes. The human factor regarding stakeholders, including political and media elites and ordinary citizens, plays a crucial role in response to disinformation. Policymakers should systematically monitor indicators on resilience while paying close attention to the human factor. European policy actions offer strategic guidelines for resilience building and, the important question at stake is how well these guidelines are implemented by governments. To avoid the long-term effects of disinformation, media, and education institutions must review the concept and practices of literacy with digital developments. Researchers should develop new approaches in order to understand resilience and support governments.

Tags: Fake news and disinformation Finland Lithuania

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