The Netherlands needs a new organisation to counteract foreign threats such as the manipulation of the media and the spreading of fake news, according to a senior army official.
Brigadier general Wilfred Rietdijk, the defence ministry’s strategic advisor on national security, told the Volkskrant in an interview that the Netherlands needs a permanent body to monitor foreign efforts to undermine democracy.
‘We need improved monitoring and detection,’ Rietdijk told the paper. He also suggested closer ties between officials and the media to deal with potentially fake news.
The west, said Rietdijk, is losing its advantage over the likes of Russia, China and Iran in terms of the information war, quoting as an example Russian attempts to manipulate public opinion around the MH17 air disaster.
The information war is extremely threatening to democracy and is a continual test of the faith of ordinary citizens in that democracy, he said. Polarisation, he continued, is being encouraged by the spreading of fake news. ‘People have thought about the weaknesses in our system,’ he told the paper.
In May, the government’s advisory council on government policy suggested the Netherlands should establish a national security council, in which the defence, foreign affairs and justice ministries would work together. Rietdijk’s suggestions dovetail with this, the Volkskrant said.
Clingendael defence expert Ko Colijn told the paper that there is a need to centralise security issues. ‘The government should be active in many areas: climate, cyber, mass immigration, terrorism, inequality, economic vulnerability,’ he said.
Nevertheless, to focus on Russian propaganda is a bit of a hype, he said. ‘There is nothing new in outside interference in elections, just the methods are different. And the Americans do it more than anyone else.’