Sweden’s newly updated emergency preparedness guides distributed to millions of households across the country rank fake news up there as a threat alongside terrorism.
The pamphlet “If War Comes” dates back to the Cold War era; now, with its first update in 30 years, it’s called “If Crisis or War Comes” and runs 20 pages long. It’s available in 13 languages.
Sweden is, incidentally, heading into its fall election season, along with concerns about disinformation campaigns intended to sway results.
“Many people may feel a sense of anxiety when faced with an uncertain world. Although Sweden is safer than many other countries, there are still threats to our security and independence. Peace, freedom and democracy are values that we must protect and reinforce on a daily basis,” the brochure states.
The guide tells Swedes that “states and organisations are already using misleading information in order to try and influence our values and how we act. The aim may be to reduce our resilience and willingness to defend ourselves.”
“The best protection against false information and hostile propaganda is to critically appraise the source: Is this factual information or opinion? What is the aim of this information? Who has put this out? Is the source trustworthy? Is this information available somewhere else? Is this information new or old and why is it out there at this precise moment?”
Potential fake-news consumers are warned to search for information – “the best way to counteract propaganda and false information is to have done your homework” – to not believe in rumors and to not spread rumors: “If the information does not appear trustworthy, do not pass it on.”
The next page goes into the terror threat. “Terror attacks may be targeted against individual people or groups, against the general public or against vital societal functions such as the electricity supply or the transport system,” the guide states. “Even though there are many different ways to carry out a terrorist attack, there are some pieces of advice that may be applicable in most situations.”
These tips include calling police, not calling people believed to be in the affected area because the ring may give away a person’s hiding place, and “do not share unconfirmed information online or in any other way.”
Everyone in Sweden between the ages of 16 and 70 is expected to contribute to defense efforts in some way if the country is attacked, consisting of conscription into the armed forces, civil conscription or general national service.
“We must be able to resist various types of attacks directed against our country. Even today, attacks are taking place against our IT systems and attempts are being made to influence us using false information. We may also be affected by conflicts in our region,” the guide says, listing potential attacks including infrastructure sabotage, military attacks “terror attacks that affect a large number of people or important organisations,” and “attempts to influence Sweden’s decision makers or inhabitants.”
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