Putin’s ‘fake news industry’ calls for ‘digital hygiene’, says Kasparov

  • ECO News
  • 7 November 2018

Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who is now a political activist, warned on Wednesday of what he called a "massive industry of 'fake news' built by Vladimir Putin.

Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion who is now a political activist, warned on Wednesday of what he called a “massive industry of ‘fake news’ built by Vladimir Putin,” accusing Russia’s president of using the internet as a weapon of war.

At a news conference at Web Summit, a tech event taking place in Lisbon, Kasparov reiterated his warnings of recent years that the “technological threat” he has identified means that the “world is increasingly divided and values are being attacked” in western democracies.

It is, he said, “almost natural” for authoritarian governments to use technology to extend their power; thus “the massive ‘ fake news ‘ industry that Putin built” was only to be expected. He and his henchmen should, he said, be given credit for having built a “cybercrime machine” that has seduced not only Russia and Eastern Europe, but also the US.

Recalling Putin’s past as a secret agent in the Soviet Union’s KGB, Kasparov argued that the Russian president was quick to realise that the technological war is a relatively low-cost one yet very effective, and has shown himself able to “shake the pillars of democracy” in the free world.

In the US today there is, Kasparov said, “an almost total consensus” among government officials that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, with the notable exception “at the top” – that is, President Donald Trump. There is also, he added, “some concern” about the mid-term elections that took place on Wednesday, in which Republicans ended up winning “all the most profitable” electoral battles.

In Europe, meanwhile, there are countries that “openly support” Putin’s agenda to divide the continent, Kasparov said, adding that he sees “little resistance” to this.

The misuse of personal information that is shared by people online, more specifically on social networks, was also raised by the activist, who left Russia six years ago because, he said, he was not able to discuss such issues. Such misuse is being done by both companies and states, and there is a need for a process of “digital hygiene” to start now.

“It’s like washing your hands,” he said. “When it comes to digital information, people don’t pay attention. There are no free lunches: people pay in a new currency – privacy.

“There is no magic solution to cure this problem,” he went on. “My concern is that I look at the European Union and the US and its instruments … are for those who reside in the ‘free world’. But the world is all interconnected and we have to work on global solutions.”

At the same time, he acknowledged that there is a need for greater political will to tackle the problem, given that tech multinationals such as Google and Facebook yield “more easily” to pressure from Russia or China than to democratic states such as Germany or the US.