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Sweden’s Russia Problem

As Sweden prepares for a general election in September, officials are stepping up efforts to defend the country’s democratic process from foreign interference. But to succeed, Sweden's leaders will need to focus as much on the sources of domestic discord as they do on policing propaganda.

STOCKHOLM – With a general election approaching in September, Swedish voters are being warned that now it’s their turn to be targeted by Russian interference in the democratic process. According to Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is leading the country’s efforts to counter foreign-influence operations, such interference is very likely, and citizens should be on the lookout for disinformation and fake news.

There’s just one problem: separating Russian “lies” from Sweden’s messy political reality will not be easy.

In recent months, Russian trolls have targeted Swedes by distributing believable stories and politically charged gossip about social unrest and moral decay. In one case, Russian agents allegedly flooded social media with news meant to influence the Swedish debate on immigration. The MSB said Russia’s goal was to fuel Swedish domestic disputes and divert attention away from Russian activities elsewhere in Europe.

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