Spain’s national security strategy to include risk of disinformation campaigns

Latest government document does not specifically mention Russia, but alludes to recent interference in Catalan crisis and Brexit

Miguel González
A meeting of Spain’s National Security Council in 2015.
A meeting of Spain’s National Security Council in 2015.Juanjo Martín (Efe)

Spain’s latest National Security Strategy document, which sets out the risks to the country’s security and the means and measures to be taken in order to deal with them, will include for the first time the “misinformation campaigns” that are being attributed to Russia and that have been detected in last year’s US elections, the Brexit campaign and the Catalan crisis.

50% of the profiles that have been spreading fake news stories about Catalonia have come from Russia

The document, which will be approved today by the Spanish Cabinet, does not specifically mention Russia, but experts have attributed the Kremlin as being behind much of the meddling that has been seen in recent years, which includes the publication of fake or manipulated news stories, followed by their widespread diffusion via automated social network accounts.

The Spanish government has been very careful when it comes to attributing this interference specifically to Russia, but it has gone so far as to confirm that 50% of the profiles that have been spreading fake news stories related to the Catalan independence drive come from servers in Russian territory, while another 30% were from Venezuela.

The 2017 National Security Strategy, which replaces a 2013 document, does not go into great detail on this issue, but it does provide a new focus, pointing out that “misinformation campaigns are not an isolated incident but in fact form part of a planned strategy: the so-called hybrid war, which combines everything from conventional forces to economic pressure and cyberattacks. The text alludes to the triumph of so-called “post-truth,” which aims to prompt an emotional response disregarding any rigor for the facts.

Among the objectives of the Spanish government’s new strategy is an improvement in crisis management. The text recognizes the need to improve the coordination of the current architecture, under which the government counts on a series of bodies that support the National Security Council, which is presided over by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The National Security Council has not met since January of this year, meaning that it was not involved in the major crises to hit Spain this year, including the jihadist attacks in Barcelona in August, which killed 16 people, and the unilateral declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament on October 27.

Misinformation campaigns are not an isolated incident but form part of a planned strategy

2017 National Security Strategy

The second main aim of the strategy is to improve the country’s awareness of national security, by better informing the public of the risks that exist and the need to deal with them.

The government has stated that the document was agreed with the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) and center-right group Ciudadanos. PSOE sources have admitted that they made suggestions to a draft, but are unaware of the content of the definitive text.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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