Photo: The Canadian Press
Minister of Public Security Marco Mendicino rises during the interrogation period, Monday, February 21, 2022 in Ottawa. Canada is on high alert for Russian disinformation campaigns designed to confuse and deceive people, said Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino. Mendicino says Canada is using all the tools at its disposal to detect online fraud from Russia and weaken its impact. CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wild
Canada is on high alert for state-sponsored Russian disinformation campaigns designed to confuse and deceive people, says Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino.
In an interview, he said that Russia is a militant and hostile actor when it comes to spreading untruths in cyberspace, but he is convinced that Canada is on top of the problem.
He warned that his government was preparing for Russian revenge in cyberspace for Canada, which supports Ukraine’s fight against the aggression of Vladimir Putin’s military forces.
“Canada and all allies remain on high alert for Russia’s revenge in the form of disinformation and foreign interference,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Canadian e-spy agency posted an update on Twitter about Russian-backed misinformation it was monitoring.
The Communications Security Service said the Kremlin used platforms including anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and anti-globalist material to manipulate the global public.
The surveillance agency, which monitors and decodes intelligence, including online activity, has revealed that Russia is spreading lies about Canada’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine using media it controls.
False Kremlin accounts include forged images of members of the Canadian military in Ukraine and false allegations that Canadian soldiers are committing war crimes.
Mendicino said Canada is a world leader in countering such threats and, with its allies, is using all the tools at its disposal to detect online fraud from Russia and weaken its impact.
His remarks came after the government set aside $ 28 million in the anti-disinformation budget in Canada and from foreign actors such as Russia, China and Iran.
“Russia is a well-known militant and hostile actor in this space. Like other state actors, we remain on high alert,” he said.
Mendicino said telling lies – including Putin’s claim that the invasion of Ukraine was intended to denazify the country – was a crucial first step in undermining the impact of disinformation.
He added that Canada was working “very closely” with G7 partners and the Five Eyes – an intelligence alliance between Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the United States – to combat misinformation he said was being used to undermine it. of democracies around the world.
More than $ 13 million in the budget will be used to renew and expand the G7’s rapid response mechanism, which is designed to detect and identify foreign intervention and state-sponsored misinformation.
Additional funds will help combat attempts to undermine trust in Canada’s government, including $ 10 million “to coordinate, develop and implement nationwide measures to combat misinformation and protect our democracy.”
Mendicino warned that disinformation was being used by extremist groups, including whites, to undermine confidence in the Canadian government.
Fans incite hatred by spreading lies about Jews, Muslims and other minority groups, he said, often sucking up people who have other complaints.
“One of the most destructive aspects of misinformation is how it can attract people who may be tired and frustrated with different things, and lead them to a much more evil and extremist goal,” he said.
Mendicino says the tactic of deliberately deceiving people and distorting the truth has been used by some leaders of the so-called Freedom Convoy, which has occupied the streets of central Ottawa for three weeks.
He said the lessons to be learned from the blockade include “how misinformation has been used as a tactic to confuse people and undermine their confidence in democracy”.
He said disinformation, which has been growing for years, “divides and polarizes”, although some circulating untruths “sound absurd at times”.
“The idea that Canada has become a dictatorship is as far in the left field as you can get before you go through the wall,” he said. “But these things happened.”
Mendicino said the pandemic had created fertile ground for disinformation, saying it was “a very deliberate campaign to spread vaccine lines”.
The minister said that not only should untruths be pointed out, but the government should educate people so that they can notice materials intended to deceive them. He said social media platforms play a key role in labeling misinformation.