'UK Integrity Initiative is Meddling in The Affairs of Other Nations' - Prof

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A leaked hybrid warfare plan of the British government, known as the “Integrity Initiative,” published by the hacker group Anonymous, has become a theme of discussion among scholars in Europe. Sputnik spoke to Professor David Miller of the University of Bristol on a plan allegedly adopted by London to counter “Russian propaganda.”

Sputnik: It [Integrity Initiative] states that its main aim is to counter Russian disinformation, however, what was happening with the Moncloa Campaign' in Spain suggests other motives does it not?

David Miller: The idea that campaigns like this are about countering Russian disinformation is in a way part of the disinformation of this kind of activity. When you see the kinds of activity they are engaged in, it is essentially promoting anti-Russian views and activities.

Yes, they have other motives, and yes this is about what they refer to as Russian active measures — this is about western active measures, i.e. covert propaganda activities and the aim is to show that the kinds of messages that they want to distribute and promote are widely held and they do that by recruiting a wide range of different people that one might think don't have any connection with each other but the documents suggest that they do in fact have connection with each other.

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Sputnik: The existence of this Integrity initiative is not entirely secret; it has a Twitter account and is linked to a website; also some of the names that appear — Edward Lucas, Peter Pomerantsev, Anne Applebaum — is not such a surprise as they have openly anti-Russian views; was there however anything which surprised you about what anonymous disclosed?

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David Miller: Well I think it's interesting; it was certainly public that there was this thing — the Integrity Initiative — but it wasn't public that it was funded by the Foreign Office, by the State Department, by NATO, by a conservative foundation in the US and indeed by Facebook; so that's what's interesting about it. It's not surprising, you say, that perhaps particular journalists were involved because of their political views but I do think it's surprising that if it's the case that they're involved that they're involved in what is effectively a state-funded propaganda operation — that comprises their independence.

You might say 'well they already have these views so that doesn't make a difference' well that does make a difference if they are involved — if indeed they have been — with a state propaganda operation. And that's the most significant thing about this — it's surprising in the sense of it's been covert. We might have suspicions of the way the world works but this is evidence that the world works in a particular way.

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Sputnik: Surely this initiative is hypocritical, if we are accusing Russia of meddling in elections are the politics of other nations and we appear to be doing the same thing?

David Miller: Yes, this is hypocritical in that sense, in that this is meddling in the affairs of other nations, trying to manipulate — in one case in Spain, a ministerial appointment, which is just extraordinary. On the other hand, this is an initiative which claims to be about countering disinformation which appears to be engaging in disinformation!

This is not entirely surprising but it is how western, British propaganda works. But it really does show the extent to which the idea that we counter Russian disinformation by allowing governments to fund organizations that claim to be about integrity, it shows the bankrupt nature of those kinds of approaches.

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Sputnik: Is there not a danger of us essentially influencing our academia with ideology, when surely the aim is for objectivity and freedom of speech in universities?

David Miller: I think it's worse than that. If you look at the documents in detail there are a number of academics named in here as partners, as the recipients of information or research from the project.

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If I was one of those academics I would want to be stipulating very clearly my relationship to the project. The questions about whether this was disclosed when they come to write academic papers in academic journals — which they're sort of required to do; you have to write a conflict of interest statement in most journals now — I would want to see what those statements are. Because if they're not disclosing these connections we have a real issue with the integrity of academic work. So it's more than the question of ideology, it's about practical involvement of specific academics.

I see that Manchester University is named, I see that the Free University of Brussels is named and there are others which are named as being part of this initiative; and indeed as recipients of information from the initiative along with the Foreign Office and the British Bankers' Association and the Association of British Insurers, and others.

Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of David Miller and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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