Disinformation in the European Union: A process-tracing analysis of the European Union’s reaction to disinformation in relation to the Ukraine Crisis 2014 - 2022

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In this thesis the research question ‘To what extent is the European Union securitizing disinformation related to the Ukraine crisis?’ is answered. In order to do so the securitization theory of the Copenhagen School is employed. The securitization framework was redesigned as a causal mechanism in order to conduct a proper process-tracing analysis of the period from 2014, starting with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, until 2022 when the EU banned Russian media outlets such as ‘Russia Today’ and ‘Sputnik’. The analysis found that in 2014 elite actors such as the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Council had not yet identified disinformation as a potential threat to the EU. This changed in the next couple of years leading up to eventual invasion in 2022. This change is especially evident in the discourse surrounding disinformation. The discourse changes from an event that needs to be ‘countered’ to something that needs to be ‘fought’ and was even seen as part of an ‘undeclared war’ against Europe. It seems the EU was somewhat successful in its securitization of disinformation as the data gathered shows that a large proportion of EU citizens found that Disinformation was a threat to democracies and most of the EU’s proposed policies to counter disinformation were adopted without resistance. However, this thesis found that institutions guarding the freedom of press voiced some concern with the decision of the EU to ban Russian media outlets and advocated other measures instead.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen