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New center to combat disinformation to be built in Finland

Associated Press logo Associated Press 11/04/2017 By JARI TANNER, Associated Press
Foreign Service Officer Donna Welton from the US, signs the Memorandum of Understanding in Helsinki, Finland, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. A group of European Union and NATO nations have agreed to establish a European "hybrid threat" center in Finland to combat unconventional methods of warfare such as disinformation and fake news. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP) © The Associated Press Foreign Service Officer Donna Welton from the US, signs the Memorandum of Understanding in Helsinki, Finland, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. A group of European Union and NATO nations have agreed to establish a European "hybrid threat" center in Finland to combat unconventional methods of warfare such as disinformation and fake news. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)

HELSINKI — A center to combat such things as disinformation and fake news will be built in Finland following an agreement Tuesday of nine countries from the European Union and NATO.

The countries — Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and the United States — signed the memorandum to set up the so-called "hybrid threat" center in Helsinki with the support of the Finnish government.

The center will become operational later this year and will initially have a budget of 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) and be staffed by a group of experts and reasearchers from the founding members.

Lorenz Meyer-Minneman, head of NATO's civil preparedness unit, said the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats will serve as a platform for EU and NATO to pool resources and share expertise. Over recent years, campaigns to discredit, misinform and spread fake news have become an increasing problem for policymakers in Europe and the United States.

"Working together is essential in building resilience to hybrid threats," said Meyer-Minneman.

Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said the EU and NATO will face "the challenge of hybrid threats hand in hand."

"Countering hybrid threats is a European priority," Soini said, adding, without elaborating, that Finland itself has become a target for "hybrid influencing" through constant disinformation campaigns and "malicious activities in the cyber domain."

The EU and NATO pledged in July at the military alliance's summit in Warsaw to increase cooperation in the areas of cyber defense and countering hybrid threats.

The new Helsinki center aims to closely cooperate with NATO's existing cyber defense center in Estonia and strategic communications center in Latvia.

Nordic neighbors Finland and Sweden are members of the EU, but not NATO. The rest are members of both though Britain is preparing to leave the EU.

In the past few years, the Nordic and Baltic countries have been particularly concerned over what they say are Russia's aggressive disinformation campaigns and systematic spreading of false news on their countries.

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