Since the biggest cyber-attack in Estonia’s history in 2007 the Baltic States have taken their own approach to preventing internet crime and fake news. In addition to the introduction of cryptocurrency and uncompromising digitalisation, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania depend on a band of ‘elves’.
Since the biggest cyber-attack in Estonia’s history in 2007 the Baltic States have taken their own approach to preventing internet crime and disinformation. In addition to the introduction of cryptocurrency and uncompromising digitalisation, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania depend on a band of ‘elves’.
“The EU wants to shut out the Baltic States.” This is a headline that appeared in Latvia on a news portal. The server was located in another country and there was no address in the portal’s legal notice. Only the ‘elves’ were able to prevent the fake news from spreading through other social media channels and report it to the police.
Like the stories in Tolkien’s books, a battle between trolls and elves is being waged in the Baltic States. That’s what a group of volunteers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on a mission to rid the internet of fake news calls itself. There are already more than 5000 ‘elves’ who are ‘trolling trolls’, as they call it, in Lithuania alone. They search Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and news portals for fake news, post comments (often not particularly nice ones), inform the portals and platforms, bring charges against the trolls – and research the sources of the news items to try and discover who is behind them.
Tighter legislation alone cannot prevent the flood of fake news, according to Vilnius’ liberal mayor Remigijus Šimašius. That’s why he, his party and the Ministry of Defence are doing everything they can to support the initiative. They are even organising workshops for children to teach them journalistic skills and web competence in school from a very young age.
The Baltic States often proudly present projects such as these to underline their status as pioneers of digital change in Europe. E-governance has tamed the paper tiger. When Lithuania’s neighbour, Estonia, was targeted by hackers who brought the authorities and banks to a standstill for days on end in 2007, the country’s response wasn’t ‘back to normal’. It was ‘prevention and optimisation’.
Estonia adapted the cryptography-based Blockchain, originally built for secure digital money transfers and citizens’ dealings with the authorities. Today Blockchain technology, developed to lin and designate data records is also being used to counter the fake news movement. How exactly?
By ensuring complete transparency when it comes to changes and sources. Almost every news item published by official agencies or editorial offices in Estonia and Lithuania can be completely traced back and verified by users via the blockchain encryption, should they wish to do so.
Often, that isn’t necessary because education has given the population options, and in some sections of society crude myths are being dismissed straight away, though not always.