Czech Center against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats will refute disinformation online
On 1 January the Center against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (Centrum proti terorismu a hybridním hrozbám) was created at the Czech Interior Ministry and will be involved in, among other things, combating domestic and foreign disinformation and propaganda, especially online. Czech President Miloš Zeman said at the close of his 2016 Christmas message that he was concerned the Center would "censor the Internet".
The Interior Ministry is insisting that it will not be be removing any content from any media outlet, just warning against disinformation on social networks and websites. The Center is being created in response to terrorist attacks in Europe on the basis of the National Security Audit's findings.
The unit is meant to deliver its findings to the Army, Police and secret services. One component of the Center will specialize in discovering disinformation in open sources and refuting it.
People should receive accurate information from the Center within the course of several hours or even minutes to refute the disinformation. Some news items were already refuted by it last month, such as the disinformation circulated by a group called "Never Again Canada".
On its website, the Interior Ministry says the Center will be an expert workplace for analysis and communications. "Given the ministry's agenda, its activity will consist of monitoring threats connected directly with the internal security of the state," the ministry states.
Besides disinformation campaigns, that includes attacks on so-called soft targets, the security aspects of immigration, and terrorism, according to the ministry. Zeman said in his Christmas speech that he is concerned the Internet will be censored in the context of international tensions.
"I am fundamentally against censorship with the exception of pornography, especially child pornography," the Czech President said. The Czech Republic, in Zeman's view, does not need a new "ideological police" at the Interior Ministry.
Internet expert Daniel Dočekal has pointed out that Zeman, or rather his spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček, profusely cites from such disinformation websites and weird information sources. The Interior Minstry has rejected Zeman's reference to censorship.
Through its website, the ministry previously stated that the Center will not have "a button for turning off the Internet" and will not force the truth on people or perform censorship. The Center will not be removing any content either from the Internet or print media.
The unit is also not supposed to be an intelligence service, law enforcement authority, or security force. Untrue information online has been refuted for several years already by the Czech Government's Hate Free Culture initiative, which is administered by the Czech Human Rights Minister.
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