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How Putin’s ‘false information’ social media campaign could destabilise Europe

IT’S capable of causing widespread harm, but Russia’s latest damaging weapon probably isn’t what you think it is.
European nations are being targeted in a new type of war, one that is already being felt across the continent.

Russia, alarmed at the spread of NATO influence, is now engaging in the spread of false information which aims not only to cause division within Europe but counter what it sees as “Russophobia”.
And Scandinavian giant Sweden has already been hit following talks of it entering a military partnership with NATO.
Officials in Stockholm noticed a flood of distorted news and claims flooding social media, confusing the public about what such a deal might mean for the country, The New York Times reported.
Among the bizarre claims was that if non-NATO member Sweden signed the deal it could attack Russia from its border without asking Swedish authorities.
While these claims and others were circulating on social media, it led to defence minister Peter Hultqvist having to correct local journalists who asked about such news.
While Norway couldn’t pinpoint the source of the information, the US and Europe pointed the finger directly at the Kremlin which is openly against any sort of NATO expansion.
But the damage had been done, and according to The Times Vladimir Putin has invested heavily in a program of “weaponised” information which is sure to cause further division in Europe.
The amount of false information spreading is so severe that both NATO and the EU have put special officials in place to identify and counter such stories.
EU and NATO ties with Russia plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
The claim that Russia is fighting an apparent war of words and spreading false information comes as tensions between the Kremlin and Ukraine remain at an all time high.
Just two weeks ago, tensions hit boiling point after Ukraine put its troops on combat alert along the country’s de facto borders with Crimea.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued the order after Moscow accused his country of sending several groups of “saboteurs” to carry out attacks in Crimea, claiming that two Russians died while fending off their incursions.
Ukraine called Russia’s claims, which circulated in its own media, “a fantasy” and “a provocation.”
Meanwhile as debate rages around the information the Kremlin reportedly controls and spreads a Russian journalist critical of Putin has been found dead.
Alexander Shchetinin was found in his Kiev apartment on Saturday with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Police believe Mr Shchetinin, who founded the Novy Region (New Region) Press agency, died between 8-9pm on Saturday just hours before friends had attempted to visit him for his birthday, The independent reported.
It is believed his death is non-suspicious and a gun was found near his body while the door of his apartment was locked.
Mr Shchetinin who once called Mr Putin an enemy gave up his Russian citizenship and became a Ukrainian national.