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U.S. Senators Seek New Center To Counter Russian, Chinese 'Propaganda'

  • RFE/RL

WASHINGTON -- New legislation being introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to improve Washington's efforts to counter "propaganda and disinformation" spread by Russia, China, and other countries.

The bill, called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016, comes amid growing calls in Congress and in many European capitals to do more to fight foreign disinformation campaigns.

Russia, in particular -- through the portrayal of its actions in Ukraine and along the peripheries of the European Union and NATO -- has alarmed lawmakers and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The EU has set up a small unit within the European External Action Service to counter narratives spread by Kremlin-backed media, such as RT and Sputnik, and government-sponsored Internet activists. NATO has also set up a Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, based in the Baltic state of Latvia, to counter Russian propaganda.

Sponsored by Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, the new U.S. legislation would, among other things, set up a Center for Information Analysis and Response to analyze "foreign government information-warfare efforts."

A draft of the bill obtained by RFE/RL said the center would also develop and disseminate "fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners."

The bill, upon formal submission, would become one of at least two circulated in Congress in recent years seeking to change some U.S. international-media operations.

U.S. civilian international-broadcasting services are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a bipartisan federal agency that among others oversees RFE/RL.

With reporting by Carl Schreck