False information about subjects including Nato, immigration and terrorism, is spread on a daily basis in Sweden, Mikael Tofvesson of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) told Swedish radio on Wednesday.
“This is going on all the time. The pattern now is that they pump out a constant narrative that in some respects is negative for Sweden,” Tofvesson said.
Psychological warfare includes a large range of activities intended to affect public opinion and political decision-making. While some disinformation is directly related to Russia, much of it focuses on issues like immigration and terrorism.
In its annual report last year, the Swedish Security Police, Säpo, said Russian propaganda was intended to “spread pro-Russian messages and to exacerbate worries and create splits in society.”
From Russian Twitter trolls to supposed independent experts paid by foreign powers to spread their point of view in the media, there are many ways that disinformation can spread, according to MSB. The Russian propaganda channels RT and Sputnik News are also important channels for fake news.
Last year, a fake letter appeared in The Local's forum, among other places, purporting to come from the Swedish Ministry of Justice addressed to the Ukrainian department of defence. In it, a prosecutor “admitted” that a Swede in Ukraine was guilty of war crimes, and promised to help cover them up. The Local removed the letter as soon as it was made aware of it.
The agency is now hiring six new staff members to combat disinformation, and expects to grow further.
“We already have a good team working on this,” Tofvesson said.
The warning in Sweden comes as Russia's alleged attempts to say the US presidential campaign have come into the spotlight. Russian hackers are alleged to have compromised the Democratic National Committee's email accounts in an attempt to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.