The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats starts operations on January 1
Czech intelligence service identified Russian propaganda and disinformation as a threat
The Czech Republic is setting up a new counter-terrorism unit aimed at the threat posed by “foreign disinformation campaigns” – or fake news.
The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats is due to start operating on Sunday, according to an interior ministry statement.
The new center is intended to monitor internal security threats, including attacks on soft targets and extremism, as well as “disinformation campaigns related to internal security.”
Its establishment follows the publication in September of a Czech intelligence service report that identified Russian disinformation and cyber-espionage activities as a potential threat to the Czech Republic, European Union and NATO.
Washington accused Russia of interfering with November’s US presidential election by hacking into Democratic National Committee emails and leaking details to the public.
Germany, where key elections are also due next year, has also voiced concern over the growing cyber threat posed by Russia.
The Czech Republic is due to hold a general election next year.
Putin brushed off the accusations Friday, saying it did not matter who was behind the apparent hacking in the US. He said the hacks were important because they had revealed truthful information, such as the alleged favoritism showed by the DNC to Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
Report: ‘Covert infiltration’ of media
According to the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) annual report, Russia in 2015 used “influence and information operations” to try to manipulate public opinion in the Czech Republic in relation to Syria and Ukraine. Russia is involved in conflicts in both these countries.
Russia’s hybrid warfare operations included “weakening the strength of Czech media” through “covert infiltration of Czech media and the Internet, massive production of Russian propaganda and disinformation controlled by the state,” the report said.
Other Russian operations included founding puppet organizations, the “covert and open support of populist or extremist subjects,” and “disrupting the coherence and readiness of NATO and the EU,” the report claimed.
“The above-mentioned activities pose a threat to the Czech Republic, EU and NATO not only in relation to the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts.
“The infrastructure created for achieving these goals will not disappear with the end of the two conflicts. It can be used to destabilize or manipulate Czech society or political environment at any time, if Russia wishes to do so.”
According to the Czech interior ministry, its new unit won’t be interrogating anyone, censoring online content or bringing legal proceedings, nor will it “have a button for ‘switching off the internet.’ “
But it will monitor threats, inform the public about “serious cases of disinformation” and promote internal security expertise.