Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) disinformation
Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) disinformation is intentionally misleading and deceptive information about chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, that can potentially cause serious political, financial, and physical harm to governments, international organizations, the scientific community, academia, industry, and the population at large. CBRN disinformation has become a significant problem in the last few years: false information and conspiracy theories on CBRN risks, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, infectious disease outbreaks or theft of radioactive material, can cause confusion and mistrust in governments and even jeopardize the public health response in case of emergency.
This threat has been corroborated by UNICRI who, in the last three years, has monitored and detected an exponential increase of malicious use of social media to undermine trust in governments and, at the same time, to reinforce extremist narratives, recruitment strategies and control of territory by criminal groups. Many individuals and organizations have been targeted by CBRN disinformation, with viral online and sometimes physical attacks being conducted against many stakeholders operating in the area of CBRN risk mitigation.
In line with its mandate to devote special attention to emerging threats and new forms of criminal phenomena, UNICRI has been monitoring the malicious use of social media and analysing existing technology options to detect and debunk false information since 2020 with the publication of the report Stop the virus of disinformation. The Institute is now actively engaged in disseminating this knowledge in a variety of ways, by, for example, producing supplementary reports, implementing capacity building activities for CBRN stakeholders and developing training materials.
Current initiatives and future programming
UNICRI has launched a Centre on Disinformation to coordinate its efforts to counter CBRN disinformation. One of its first outputs is the Handbook to combat CBRN disinformation, which has been designed for individuals or agencies working in CBRN risk mitigation at different levels (communication, decision-making, managerial, operational, technical, etc.) who have been or could potentially be exposed to and targeted by disinformation. The Handbook aims at enhancing understanding of CBRN disinformation on social media while developing competencies to prevent and respond to disinformation with a specific focus on techniques for debunking false information.
Thanks to the generous funding of the European Commission, UNICRI is also currently preparing online training events for Ukraine on addressing CBRN disinformation.
For more information on the topic, please consult the publications below.