Sweden Defends its Elections Against Disinformation, 2016 – 2018

Abstract 

The Russian state information influence attack against the 2016 US presidential election rattled authorities in Sweden. The Scandinavian country of 10 million was already a frequent target of Kremlin-sponsored disinformation. With a general election approaching in September 2018 and public apprehension about a possible influence attack high, officials at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency began preparing measures to defend the credibility of the country’s electoral process. Rather than attempt to halt the creation and spread of disinformation, the agency aimed to build the resilience of institutions and society overall to withstand information influence activities. The agency trained thousands of civil servants, built and strengthened interagency coordination structures, coordinated with traditional and social media, raised public awareness, and monitored the digital information landscape. Despite a cyberattack on the Swedish Election Authority website that fanned claims of fraud and generated a flood of homegrown political disinformation, the election ran smoothly and the government doubled down on the resilience-building approach for protecting the 2022 election.

Gordon LaForge drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in October and November 2020. Case published December 2020. The Princeton University Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination supported the development of this case study.

 

 

Keywords 
disinformation
Elections
interagency coordination
strategic communications
crisis management
task forces
Focus Area(s): 
Elections
Critical Tasks: 
Consensus building
Election security
Inter-ministerial coordination
Scenario building
Training
Voter education
Core Challenge: 
Coordination
Credibility (trust)
Trust and legitimacy
Country of Reform: 
Sweden
Author: 
Gordon LaForge