Security service warns of increase in attempts to influence Swedish election

Security service warns of increase in attempts to influence Swedish election
Voters have already begun to cast their ballots in the election. Photo: Hanna Franzén / TT
Sweden's Security Service (Säpo) has reported an increase in activities aimed at influencing trust in next week's general election, from fake social media accounts and discussion of electoral fraud.

The target of these efforts could be political organizations or authorities involved in the election. But despite the increase, the activities observed so far are within the realm of what Säpo had expected to contend with. 

“The expectations are based on the threat level we have produced, where we gathered many international experiences, from the American election but also from elections in Europe over the past two years. We put this into the Swedish context to see which measures we needed to take,” explained Linda Escar from the security police.

One such measure was to raise awareness about attacks aimed at influencing the election, not only among authorities and political organizations but also among the general public.

“It's important to have an understanding of what influence operations involve and what the effects can be. And it's very important to be critical of sources,” said Escar.

Säpo earlier identified Russia as an example of a foreign power which might want to create division and present Sweden in a negative light, for example through skewed news articles. But it is unclear who or which groups are behind the operations identified so far.

“There is intelligence work being carried out, and it's a puzzle that will take some time to work out. We will only have a complete picture of who is behind which activities after the election,” Escar explained.

She added that despite the rise in this kind of activity, Sweden's election result will still be reliable, and advised members of the public to be critical of sources but not to be unnecessarily concerned. 

“It is also important to have a balance, to be aware that not everything which is a deviation is coming from a foreign power, and it is not always related to the election, anomalies are also part of the normal picture,” she said. 

IN DEPTH: How Sweden's getting ready for the election year information war

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