THEO VAN GOGH SOCIETY: Sweden becomes the latest Western country to create an anti-disinformation agency
JANUARY 11, 2022 BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS
A FEW MONTHS AFTER France’s establishment of an agency to combat foreign disinformation, Sweden has announced the creation of a new government authority, whose mission is to defend against disinformation by foreign actors.
Based in Karlstad, a city 200 miles west of Stockholm, the Swedish Psychological Defense Agency (PDA) was formally established on January 1. Its stated mission is to “safeguard [Sweden’s] open and democratic society, the free information of opinion and Sweden’s freedom and independence”.
The agency says it plans to carry out its mission by working “both preventively and operationally and [by pursing] its tasks in peacetime and in war”. In addition to “identifying, analysing and responding to inappropriate influences and other misleading information directed at Sweden or Swedish interests”, the PDA vows to target disinformation by foreign actors that aim to weaken “the country’s resilience and the population’s will to defend itself”. Moreover, the new authority aims to provide support against disinformation by foreign actors to various national agencies, local authorities, media organizations, voluntary groups and the population at large. Its ultimate goal is to “develop and strengthen society’s overall capacity of psychological defence”.
The establishment of this new government authority comes several months ahead of the Sweden’s general election, which has been scheduled for September 11 of this year. According to the Swedish government, there is no evidence that foreign actors carried out systematic psychological operations against the Swedish state and its population in the run-up to the most recent general election, which was held in 2018. However, according to the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), “foreign powers [plan to exert] influence on Sweden in the long term”.
Sweden’s announcement of the establishment of the PDA comes six months after the creation of a similarly tasked government agency in France. Established in June of last year, France’s Secretariat-General for National Defense and Security (SGDSN) aims to combat foreign disinformation campaigns that attempt to “undermine the state”. The SGDSN is reported to employ 60 officers at the present time. Other countries, such as the United States and Britain, have set up units within agencies whose mission is to combat foreign disinformation. But France and Sweden appear to be the only Western countries so far that have created independent agencies tasked with such a mission.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 January 2022