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Malign Information Influence and the Swedish audiences of RT and Sputnik

Patricia Cruz

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The article “The paperboys of Russian messaging: RT/Sputnik audiences as vehicles for malign information influence” by Charlotte Wagnsson from Swedish Defence University looked at the reception and dissemination of ‘malign information influence’ (MII) in Sweden, a liberal democracy. It did so by studying the attitudes of self-professed readers of RT/Sputnik through a panel study with a total of 3033 participants.

Wagnsson started of by a hypothesis, based on previous studies, that RT and Sputnik appeal to their readers by presenting information designed to strengthen the identity grievances of the readers. It was then presumed that the readers would score higher on scales that measure their identity grievances. 

While these outlets also present material that could plausibly further attitudes that weaken the national security, the hypothesis based on the characteristics of the type of people who read alternative news and russian media  was that there would be no effect on the attitudes pertaining to matters of national security compared to non-readers. 

It was found out that 7% of the participants read RT or Sputnik at least on some occasion, with 2% reading either or both regularly, weekly or monthly. Nearly three fourths of the readers are men and the age category of 18-29 years old readers was clearly overrepresented. A high total of 13% of that age cohort consume Sputnik.

The results on political preference were similarly striking: followers of non-parliamentary parties were overrepresented, as were the followers of the far-right Sweden Democrats. Followers of traditional parties, the Moderate Party and Social Democrats, were underrepresented. 

Yet another distinctive feature was found among the consumers of RT/Sputnik: they had a very high total consumption rate of all kinds of news media. 95% of them consumed a traditional foreign media (such as CNN or BBC), compared to 65% of the total respondents, and 82% consumed a national alternative media (28% for the total).

The users of RT/Sputnik were also more likely to spread news to who they know, even news they consider untrustworthy, so the potential reach for RT/Sputnik news/disinformation  is likely higher than the reported users, although the users reported that they are unlikely to spread RT/Sputnik on their social media.

Respondents who consume RT/Sputnik were likely to be mistrustful of media in general, with more claiming that they do not trust any news than the average, and many expressing skepticism of mainstream media. Still, it is noteworthy that the Swedish consumers of RT/Sputnik still consider mainstream media more reliable than RT/Sputnik.

The reported reason for reading RT/Sputnik was most often “for pleasure” (40%), For nearly a third, the content of the news was the reason for tuning in. There were different reasons for this, such as presenting news not considered politically correct on other sites, the readers views not being presented in other media, or that RT/Sputnik was more trustworthy on societal problems, Russia, or national security.

 A large amount of readers did not know or  want to tell their reason (25%), or referred to other reasons (22%). The hypothesis that RT/Sputnik users would not align with views that could potentially harm national security turned out to be wrong, 

The users aligned more with views that were negative of Swedish Armed Forces and Sweden’s inability to cooperate with other countries and were more likely to think that Russia’s threat was exaggerated.

On the first hypothesis, that RT/Sputnik users would be strengthened in their identity grievances, it was found that the users were indeed more likely to perceive such identity grievances out of the 15 claimed statements, save for the one that said “people on the countryside are left out”. It was speculated that most responders/users were in fact urban.

As for effect on political stances or matters of national security policy, the users were surprisingly, and contrary to the messaging from RT/Sputnik, more likely to support NATO. It was speculated that the users’ views were generally supportive of anything that projects strength and national unity.

On society at large, the users were more likely to be critical of many parts of the civil society save for the armed forces, which was viewed somewhat positively, although, as mentioned, they aligned themselves with worry of the present state of the armed forces.

It was noteworthy that the users were, contrary to the hypotheses, aligning themselves with views that can potentially harm national security. They did not consider Russia as much as a threat and were less inclined to be critical of the Russian Federation. 

The author notes that the consumers hold the potential to act as megaphones on issues of importance, as they consumed media to a great extent and were somewhat reckless in their media sharing habits. 

The relatively high consumption rate of RT/Sputnik, combined with the aligning of the users on both identity grievance matters (that can fracture the society) and matters of national security is problematic, particularly as the users were young, media-savvy men. 

The study “The paperboys of Russian messaging: RT/Sputnik audiences as vehicles for malign information influence” by Charlotte Wagnsson is in Information, Communication & Society. (open access). 

Picture: Russia Today logo.

License Wikimedia Commons. 

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Journalism

The Top Journalism Websites for News and Analysis”

Alice Trout

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Journalism plays an essential role in keeping the public informed about current events and issues. The internet has made it easier than ever to access a wide range of news and analysis from reputable sources. Here are some of the best journalism sites for keeping up-to-date on the latest happenings around the world:

  1. The New York Times (www.nytimes.com) – The New York Times is a well-respected newspaper that has been in operation for over 150 years. It offers a wide range of news and analysis on politics, business, technology, and culture.
  2. The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) – The Washington Post is another well-respected newspaper that has been in operation for over 150 years. It offers in-depth coverage of national and international news, as well as commentary on politics, business, and more.
  3. The Guardian (www.theguardian.com) – The Guardian is a British newspaper that offers a wide range of news and analysis on politics, business, technology, and culture. It has a strong reputation for investigative journalism and has won numerous awards.
  4. BBC News (www.bbc.com/news) – BBC News is the online news division of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events.
  5. Al Jazeera (www.aljazeera.com) – Al Jazeera is a Qatari news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of the Middle East and North Africa.
  6. Reuters (www.reuters.com) – Reuters is a global news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of business and financial news.
  7. CNN (www.cnn.com) – CNN is a global news organization that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of breaking news and live events.
  8. The Economist (www.economist.com) – The Economist is a British magazine that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events, with a focus on economics and politics.
  9. The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com) – The Atlantic is an American magazine that offers a wide range of news and analysis on international, national, and regional events, with a focus on politics, culture, and technology.
  10. ProPublica (www.propublica.org) – ProPublica is a non-profit organization that focuses on investigative journalism. It has a strong reputation for its coverage of politics, business, and social issues.

Guest blogging is a highly effective marketing strategy that every business should be utilizing. By purchasing PR publications, you can increase traffic and establish authority.

These are just a few examples of the many great journalism websites that are available. Whether you’re looking for breaking news, in-depth analysis, or a particular perspective on current events, these sites are an excellent starting point.

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Journalism

The Ethics of Healthcare Advertising: Balancing the Right to Information with the Risk of Deception

Alice Trout

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Healthcare advertising has the potential to inform and educate the public about important medical treatments and products, but it must be done in an ethical and responsible manner. On one hand, the public has the right to access information about healthcare options that may improve their quality of life or save their lives. On the other hand, there is a risk that healthcare advertising could deceive or mislead consumers, leading to negative consequences for both the companies and the public.

One issue with healthcare advertising is the promotion of prescription drugs for off-label use. Off-label use refers to the use of a drug for a purpose that has not been approved by the regulatory agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. While it is not illegal for doctors to prescribe drugs for off-label use, it is illegal for pharmaceutical companies to promote drugs for off-label use. This is because the FDA has not determined that the drug is safe and effective for the unapproved use.

Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies have been known to engage in off-label promotion in order to increase sales. This can be harmful to patients, as they may be prescribed a drug that has not been thoroughly tested for the specific condition they are suffering from. In some cases, off-label use of a drug can even be dangerous.

Another issue with healthcare advertising is the use of exaggerated or misleading claims. This can include making false or unproven statements about the effectiveness of a drug or treatment, or downplaying the risks and side effects. Such practices can lead to consumers making informed decisions about their healthcare, and can also harm the reputation of the healthcare industry as a whole.

In order to strike a balance between the right to information and the risk of deception, it is important for both regulatory agencies and the healthcare industry to prioritize ethical practices in healthcare advertising. This can include measures such as strict oversight by regulatory agencies, clear guidelines for the approval and review of advertising materials, and campaigns to educate the public about how to evaluate and interpret healthcare advertising. By taking these steps, we can ensure that the public has access to accurate and reliable information about healthcare options, while also protecting against deceptive practices that can harm both consumers and the healthcare industry.

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Journalism

Supporting Startup Founders’ Mental Health: The Importance of Prioritizing Well-Being in the Fast-Paced Startup World

Alice Trout

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As the startup world continues to thrive and grow, it’s important to recognize that the fast-paced, high-stress environment can take a toll on the mental health of founders and employees. In fact, research has shown that entrepreneurs are at a higher risk for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression compared to the general population.

One key factor that contributes to this risk is the pressure to succeed and the fear of failure that can come with starting and running a business. Additionally, the long hours and lack of work-life balance that are often associated with the startup world can also contribute to mental health challenges.

It’s essential that startups prioritize the mental health of their founders and employees, not only for the well-being of the individual, but also for the overall success of the business. Research has shown that mental health issues can negatively impact productivity and decision-making, which can have serious consequences for a company.

There are a few steps that startups can take to support the mental health of their team members:

  1. Encourage open communication and create a safe space for employees to talk about their mental health concerns.
  2. Offer resources such as counseling and mental health benefits to employees.
  3. Foster a culture of self-care by promoting healthy habits such as regular exercise and proper nutrition.
  4. Set boundaries and encourage work-life balance to prevent burnout.

For those not ready to go to the doctor or looking for support, mental health startups Europe offer help through apps.

It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s crucial that startups prioritize the well-being of their founders and employees. By taking steps to support the mental health of their team, startups can create a positive and healthy work environment that leads to success for both the business and its employees.

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