The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a new program to counter disinformation in the Caucasus. The Georgia Information Integrity Program is a five-year, $7.5 million award, implemented by a consortium of Georgian and international organizations managed by Zinc Network, Limited. Designed to help Georgians build societal resilience against disinformation, the program will play a significant role in the implementation of USAID’s Development Framework for Countering Malign Kremlin Influence(CMKI) and marks the Agency’s first long-term, stand-alone program devoted exclusively to addressing the threat of disinformation.
While the challenge of disinformation is not new, the reach, depth, and speed of propaganda and manipulation in the digital age presents unprecedented, complex challenges. False information can reach more people, penetrate social networks, and spread much faster than at any other time in history. During nation-wide election cycles, global pandemics, and security crises, it is critical for governments, societies, and individuals to develop resilience against disinformation in the political, economic, and social spheres. Recognizing the multifaceted challenges of disinformation, USAID’s programming adopts a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach.
The Georgia Information Integrity Program starts from the premise that, to be effective and sustainable, efforts to combat disinformation must build the institutions, practices, and networks that underpin societal resilience. The program will encourage innovative ways to build resilience, such as working with Georgian organizations to map the sources and measure the impact of disinformation, disseminate messages strongly grounded in facts, and co-create new tools and methods for responding to disinformation.
Under the leadership of Zinc Network, Limited, the partnership that will implement the Georgia Information Integrity Program includes the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), a leading Georgian public-opinion research agency; the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which identifies and exposes sources of disinformation through open-source research; and new partners, Startup Grind, the Georgian branch of a global network of tech innovators; Leavingstone, a creative agency with expertise in the creation of digital content, marketing through influencers, and advertising; and Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios, an international design agency that specializes in innovative approaches to public engagement.
Launched in 2019, USAID’s Development Framework for CMKI addresses the Government of Russia’s ongoing efforts to undermine territorial integrity, democratic development, and Euro-Atlantic integration in Georgia. The Georgia Information Integrity Program will implement a core objective of the CMKI Framework in Georgia – mitigating the Kremlin’s manipulation of information. The program will inform USAID’s future programming in this area and ensure we are applying best practices in other countries across Europe and Eurasia where malign Kremlin influence is having a corrosive effect.