State Department develops framework to combat foreign disinformation

The U.S. State Department on Thursday announced the Framework to Counter Foreign State Information Manipulation. The new framework follows a report from the department last year that alleged the Chinese government spent billions funding a global propaganda network. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Thursday announced a new framework to counter foreign disinformation.

The Framework to Counter Foreign State Information Manipulation aims to establish a common set of actions for the United States and its allies to combat foreign information manipulation and "protect free and open societies," the State Department said in a release.

According to the State Department, authoritarian governments use disinformation to "manipulate social discourse, skew national and international debates on subjects of critical importance, and undermine democratic institutions."

"This transnational threat requires a coordinated international response," the statement read.

By establishing the framework, the United States is calling on like-minded countries to endorse five key action items included in the framework:

  • national strategies and policies

  • governance structures and institutions

  • human and technical capacity

  • civil society, independent media and academia

  • multilateral engagement

Through these key action items, the State Department aims to encourage countries to go beyond a standard "monitor and report approach" and develop strategies to combat the threat.

Partner countries also must invest in digital security tools that can detect foreign interference and promote cooperation between governments working to counter such threats, the State Department said.

The framework also called on governments to protect "independent media, independent fact checking, and media and digital literacy."

Media manipulation has become more evident in recent years.

France's Service for Vigilance and Protection against Foreign Digital Interference in June 2023 said it uncovered a Russian digital disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting western support for Ukraine.

The operation used a URL-hijacking technique called "typosquatting" to mimic website domain names that would lead users to fake websites that promoted pro-Kremlin, anti-Ukraine narratives, according to VIGINUM.

In September, the Chinese government denounced a State Department report that alleged that the authoritarian nation spent billions of dollars to create a global disinformation network. It called the United States "an empire of lies through and through."

According to the report, China's "information manipulation efforts" encompass five pillars: international propaganda, domestic censorship, promoting "digital authoritarianism," pressuring international organizations and exercising control over Chinese-language media.

The State Department in November said it also identified Russian influence in Latin America that co-opted local media and influencers to peddle pro-Kremlin propaganda.

Two days after that report went public, nonprofit Freedom House released its own report that alleged 38 governments paid workers to shape online opinions over the past year.

The report also identified 40 countries where social media surveillance programs were implemented to target users for political, social or religious speech.

China was the world's most frequent abuser of Internet freedoms, but online freedoms declined in the United States, as well, as law enforcement monitors social media and conducts warrantless searches of electronic devices, according to the report.