Think Tank (6/2023)
(L-R) Chris Riley and Senior Fellow Benjamin Ang
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The Evolving Landscape of DRUMS
30 Oct 2023
Xue Zhang
Dymples Leong

The Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) organised its annual DRUMS workshop from 30 to 31 October 2023. With the theme of “The Evolving Landscape of DRUMS,” the workshop saw over 180 participants from government agencies, academia, and NGOs attending. International and regional speakers spoke on the evolution of disinformation and misinformation, safeguarding of electoral integrity, strategic communications, sophisticated generative AI, counter disinformation measures and information literacy.

The keynote speaker, Chris Riley, Head of Strategic Communications Unit, NATO; introduced how NATO challenges hostile information and disinformation. NATO has focused efforts against hybrid warfare since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. He noted that cooperation with a range of partners including international organisations, industry, and civil society is crucial in efforts to counter hybrid warfare tactics.

In the first panel on safeguarding electoral integrity, Nuurrianti Jalli, Assistant Professor, School of Media and Strategic Communications, Oklahoma State University; observed that distrust by Malaysians towards state media and low levels of media information literacy contributed towards the spread of propaganda. Dominika Hajdu, Policy Director, Centre for Democracy & Resilience, GLOBSEC; noted that 53% of Slovakians polled believed that elections were being undermined and could not be trusted.

The second panel focused on global struggle of narratives. Una Bērzina-Čerenkova, Head, Riga Stradins University China Studies Centre; Head, Asia Research Programme, Latvian Institute of International Affairs; examined foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI) as a significant aspect of telling China’s story and commented on how a constructivist approach is needed for strategic communications. Anayit Khoperiya, Head of the Department for Countering Information Threats to National Security, Center for Countering Disinformation, National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine (NSDC); observed how the Ukrainian public is being educated on disinformation and media literacy. Mikael Tofvesson, Head of Operations, Swedish Psychological Defence Agency; noted that the Swedish government supported Ukrainian agencies and civil society and learnt lessons in building resilience and enhancing countermeasures against full scale information warfare.

Speakers of the third panel presented on generative AI tools in the new battleground for disinformation. John Kelly, Founder & CEO, Graphika; provided an overview on Graphika’s analysis on information operations and coordinated manipulation. Svitlana Slipchenko, Head of VoxCheck Project, Member of VoxUkraine Management team; discussed how fact-checkers can better utilise robust fact-checking methodologies as countermeasures and emphasised the importance of collaboration with tech experts and governance bodies to safeguard the integrity of information. Charlie Beckett, Professor of Practice, Director of Polis, at the LSE, provided a journalistic perspective into generative AI and how it has reshaped journalism both economically and editorially.

In the fourth panel on counter-DRUMS measures, Donato Vese, Assistant Professor in  Law and Economics, University  of Pisa; observed that policymakers, both on an international and European level, have undertaken legislative and administrative measures to regulate fake news. Jun Liu, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen; shared semantic network analysis of the official counter-falsehoods accounts on two dominant Chinese social media platforms (Weibo and WeChat) during the COVID-19 period. Contemplating existing research on DRUMS, it was argued that utilising counter-DRUMS as rhetorical tools to discredit media scrutiny, attack opponents, and undermine dissident views, represents a common political trend on a global scale. Giedrius Sakalauskas, Director, Res Publica – Civic Resilience Center; elaborated the Project #ForFreedom as a cross-country collaboration between Lithuania and Ukraine to counter Russian disinformation.

The speakers for the last panel highlighted the importance of information, media, and health literacy for combatting DRUMS. Damian Wang, Senior Librarian (Outreach), Programmes and Services, Archives & Libraries Group, National Library Board; noted that all segments of society should be involved in educating Singaporeans about online disinformation. The S.U.R.E. programme; which stands for Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate; has focused on pre-bunking resources, digital wellness, and media literacy courses deployed in schools. John William Cheng, Associate Professor, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts, Tsuda University; shared that among the major findings from a survey conducted in Japan, health literacy decreased belief in COVID-19 misinformation, but not in conspiracy theories about the pandemic. Jane Lytvynenko, a freelance reporter, highlighted the rise of open-source resources for journalists and fact-checkers in how they investigate and present disinformation reporting. This has led to audiences being better informed of the various methodologies and reporting processes behind these investigations.

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