Organizers of the second edition of the conference are representatives of the scientific and technological sector, represented by the GATE Institute through the project for the Bulgarian-Romanian Observatory for Digital Media (BROD) and the companies Identrics, Ontotext and Sensika.

The event was opened by Todor Tagarev, Minister of Defense of the Republic of Bulgaria and Bozhidar Bozhanov, Chairman of the Committee on Electronic Government and Information Technologies in the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria. They emphasized the importance of the topic of disinformation and gave examples of global disinformation campaigns such as the one about the war in Ukraine. According to Minister Tagarev, there is no tool developed at the state level to counteract manipulative content, and therefore “the main way to deal with disinformation is strategic communications.” The Ministry of Defense does not have a sanctioning mechanism against disinformation. However, it has developed a strategy to counteract the so-called hybrid war, since, according to Colonel Dobril Radoslavov, disinformation is only one of the methods of external intervention and manipulation.

One of the highlights of the forum was the existing and necessary regulatory framework to counter the spread of false content. In this context, Vasil Velichkov (Sensika) presented the requirements of the Digital Services Act and how it will be implemented in Bulgaria.

Todor Galev (Center for the Study of Democracy) examined the mechanisms and technological means that turn fake news into a profitable business. He also proposed solutions to “demonetise” disinformation – increased financial controls on websites and online advertising platforms to comply with fiscal and tax legislation, as well as regular monitoring of content falling under the EU’s restrictive measures.

Of particular interest was the research and analysis of techniques for presenting misleading content during the local elections in Bulgaria (Todor Kiryakov, Devora Kotseva, A Data Pro), as well as the study of public sentiments towards the adoption of the euro and the spread of propaganda “for” and “against” the European currency (Keith Kiely, GATE Institute).

In the technology session, Identrics, Ontotext and Sensika presented their technology solutions and tools to detect and combat disinformation. Irina Temnikova, (GATE Institute) presented the results of a project of the Institute for the automatic detection of traces of purposefully distributed false information in text format in Bulgarian on social media. The toolkit includes trace detection of both targeted disinformation written by humans and deepfake generated.

The forum ended with a lively discussion.

This project has received funding from the European Union under Contract number: 101083730 — BROD. This document reflects the views only of the independent Consortium, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.