NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence has published a report that focuses on Information Laundering in the Nordic-Baltic region. Previous NATO StratCom COE’s studies confirm that the Nordic-Baltic region (NB8) is exposed to attempts by foreign and domestic pro-Kremlin actors and their proxies to sway public opinion and consolidate influence in the region. Information Laundering (IL) plays a key role in this, allowing actors to manipulate information in a way that is difficult to detect and debunk.

The publication used case study analysis to explore Information Laundering campaigns in eight countries: Denmark, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Lithuania, and Norway. In total, 854 interventions in information influence processes were considered, resulting in a dataset of 570 single actors across 52 representative IL cases. The research was conducted in the respective domestic official languages. The results confirmed that  Information Laundering is conducted in every NB8 country, with domestic actors enabling the spread of Kremlin’s influence within the country and in the region.

The definition of Information Laundering used in this paper has been constructed from the combination of a metaphor of money laundering and the approach to Information Laundering from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) in 2018. In this process, false or deceitful information is legitimised through a network of intermediaries that gradually apply a set of techniques in order to distort it and obscure the original source. As a metaphor of money laundering, IL consists of three phases:

  • placement, when the first actor, accidentally or intentionally, applies the first IL technique on the original source;
  • layering, the progressive application of IL techniques by a set of actors that increase the level of distortion of the piece of information;
  • integration, wherein the laundered piece becomes part of the public discourse.

Key findings:

  • In the Nordic-Baltic region, Information Laundering occurs along three different dimensions, depending on the actors involved and the target audiences, i.e. domestic, transnational or foreign.
  • Information Laundering cases were identified in all NB8 countries. They were supported by domestic actors of different nature that were also seen to enable Kremlin’s influence in the country. This allowed this research to map the ecosystem of hostile information influence campaigns in the region.
  • NATO’s activity in general, and NATO military exercises in particular, stimulated the highest level of activity by Information Laundering networks across the entire region: Trident Juncture 2018 was particularly relevant in Lativa, Finland, Sweden and Norway; Information Laundering often highlighted human errors and misconduct by NATO soldiers.

You can download the full report here.