PRAGUE (AP) — A new Czech unit to combat fake news is preparing to combat disinformation campaigns ahead of two key elections, an official said on Friday.
Eva Romancovova, who coordinated the creation of the Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats at the Interior Ministry, said it has been working on "a fairly large project to protect the upcoming elections in the Czech Republic."
"We don't have information that the elections are threatened, but the news coming from abroad, even from our neighboring countries such as Germany, is very alarming," Romancovova told The Associated Press during an interview at the ministry. "And it would be very naive to think that Czech Republic, being in an election year, would be spared of such a campaign and such attacks."
Czechs will choose lawmakers in October and the new president early in 2018.
"Our method of operation is that we select information that we get from our international partners and from media outlets and pick all possible scenarios of threats to the elections," Romancovova said. "And we judge if the Czech Republic has countermeasures to them."
A team of 15 experts monitors traditional and social media to quickly rebut misinformation, possibly from pro-Russian sources, which has a potential to radicalize public opinion or cause panic.
The Czech Republic's counter-intelligence agency, BIS, warned in its annual report last year that the Russians among others were trying to infiltrate Czech media and the Internet to spread disinformation and propaganda to harm relations with the U.S. and NATO, and support extremists.
The United States and 10 EU countries, including Germany, France, Britain, the Baltic countries, and Sweden, agreed last year to build a hybrid threat center in Finland. The agency will work closely with the EU's foreign affairs council and NATO, which has several cyber centers.
President Milos Zeman, whose views are considered pro-Russian, has repeatedly attacked the unit. Zeman linked it to censorship and said that no one can have a monopoly on truth.
Romancovova said the center will offer facts and has no power to censor anyone.
This story has been corrected to show Romancovova's first name is Eva.