The Hybrid Wars of Information

Research question/goal: 

The war for hearts and minds among the great powers is at least as important as the war fought with conventional weapons. One of its most recent incarnations is the hybrid propaganda war, levied by Moscow against the West. This is a sophisticated, well-funded and multipronged attempt to bring domestic publics in the West around to the Russian regime’s viewpoint. Prior research identified and described attempts of hybrid propaganda war. In this project, we analysed the prevalence and effectiveness of these attempts in Western societies. We built on theories of international relations, public opinion formation, and psychology to examine which strategic use of (mis)information from abroad is effective and which is not. The project also explored conditioning factors at the individual and contextual level. Our point of departure was that political elites could strategically push conspiracies when evidence on an issue is against them to prevent policy change in a direction they do not favour. In contrast to misinformation, conspiracies, however, destroy the credibility of all sources of information, which helps explain why they are not always adopted. We developed a base model of the strategic use of conspiracy narratives and collected data on a number of illustrative cases of conspiratorial discourse used by Russia in the West. Moreover, we examined the link between authoritarian predispositions and political mobilisation in democracies. We published journal articles on autocrats' disinformation strategies, disinformation interventions in German election campaigns, and the effects of specific messages on citizens’ in political science and economics journals.

Fact sheet

2016 to 2023
Data Sources: 
Geographic Space: 
Europe, United States