Training Workshop on Understanding and Building Resilience against Disinformation in a Democratic Society

Speech of the EU Ambassador for the opening ceremony of a two-day Training Workshop on Understanding and Building Resilience against Disinformation in a Democratic Society. The workshop is taking place in the framework of the EU Cyber4Dev programme.

Honourable Mr Deepak Balgobin, Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation;

My Colleague Siim Kumpas – Lead Expert in the East Stratcom Taskforce of the European External Action Service;

Mr Hannes Krause – Cybersecurity for Development Coordinator for the Indian Ocean region;

Representatives of Ministries and Public Institutions;

Members of the Police Force;

Members of the Press;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Disinformation is a form of Information Disorder – it is false information that is knowingly shared to cause harm.

There are different motivations of those responsible for disinformation campaigns. It can be either economic or political, and there is a myriad of state and non-state actors involved who use diverse tools and manipulation techniques to achieve their harmful goals.

Its direct and indirect impacts are difficult to quantify - we are only at the earliest of stages of understanding their full implications.

However, what we know, is that the long-term implications of dis-information campaigns designed specifically to sow mistrust and confusion and to sharpen existing sociocultural divisions using nationalistic, ethnic, racial and religious tensions, are most worrying.

Before we can successfully tackle the problem of disinformation, we must understand it. Only when we will have clarity on the nature of the problem, can we define and implement the proper responses.

And this is the why we are gathered here today.

Honourable Minister,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all to the opening of this two-day Training Workshop on ‘Understanding and Building Resilience against Disinformation in a Democratic Society’. An initiative of the European Union – Cyber Resilience for Development project.

The emergence of new digital technologies have allowed our societies to develop faster and wiser. The emergence of internet, particularly social media, has allowed us to connect in ways we have never known before. But, like with all new technologies, there are challenges.

One of the challenges is the rapidly growing phenomenon of Information Disorder.

Information disorder, including disinformation, is not a new thing in the human society, but with the rapid digitalization of societies, we are witnessing something new: information pollution at a global scale - a complex web of motivations for creating, disseminating and consuming ‘polluted’ messages; a myriad of techniques for amplifying content; innumerable platforms hosting and reproducing these contents at breakneck speed.

Every day we hear that bad is good, that less is more, that democracies are our enemies and that oppression is freedom.

Disinformation is constantly evolving and becoming more complex. It is present across different realms of the society, migration, health, political, etc.

Our societies’ modern information environment is widely accessible, cheap and provides sophisticated editing and publishing technology - making it easy for anyone to create and distribute content. Moreover, popular social networks make it difficult for people to judge the credibility of any message - the focus being on the story rather than on the source, and endorsements and social recommendations are guiding readership.

Disinformation is also becoming a real challenge to democratic societies in the world. Democracy is a system that is based on the information that people have, as people make their choices – their political choices according to their perception of the information they receive. And if the information is manipulated, people are not aware of the reality, and their choices become biased.

What should be done ?

Honourable Minister,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Owing to the rapid spread of information disorder on a worldwide scale, it is now more important and urgent than ever, to build the resilience of our democratic societies to disinformation, and to build this resilience, it is important to understand what disinformation is about – how does it work, who are they, where are they, how do they work, what are their motives.

Appropriate technological solutions, such as structural changes to the information ecosystem, with rules to better govern the decisions and behaviour of information platforms, whilst at the same time safeguarding the values and freedoms of democratic societies, can then be devised and implemented. I want to underline here that, preventing the spread of toxic information on information platforms, is not about attacking freedom of speech, on the contrary, it is about protecting it.

However, technical solutions alone is not enough – the problem is a “whole-of-society” problem, so a “whole-of-society’’ approach with the media, civil society, and people who are empowered through education and media literacy, to raise awareness about how disinformation works, would need to be adopted. Lying is a problem, but the bigger problem is that we believe in those lies.

Through this two-day workshop, the EU is assisting the actors of the Mauritian society, in (i) developing a better understanding of what disinformation is about and in (ii) devising the appropriate approach to build the resilience of the nation. All of you present here today, will have a role to play in this.


Information disorder is a crisis of our modern society that needs to be given the attention it deserves. When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm.

The European Commission has stepped up its efforts to fight the spread of disinformation and misinformation to ensure the protection of European values and democratic systems.

But the problem of Information disorder is global, so the response has to be global.

That is why the European Union, through its Cyber Resilience for Development project is providing support to like-minded partner countries, to enhance their capacity to counter the spread of disinformation.

Honourable Minister, by accepting this support of the EU to fight the phenomenon of information disorder, Mauritius has demonstrated that, as a nation, it is committed to uphold strong democratic values. I hope that Mauritius, as the EU Cyber4Dev regional hub, would in turn support other like-minded countries in their fight against information disorder.

I would like to seize this opportunity to thank you and the staff of your Ministry for the good work carried out so far as a regional hub, and for the successful training delivered to the authorities in  Seychelles on the subject of ‘cybersecurity strategy’, last December.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for your attention and wish you a fruitful workshop.