THE FINNISH Security Intelligence Service (Supo) is proposing that the deliberate dissemination of disinformation on behalf of a foreign state be criminalised in Finland, YLE reported on Saturday.
Antti Pelttari, the director general of Supo, stated to the Parliament’s Transport and Communication Committee in April that Supo believes it is necessary to evaluate and assess whether the most flagrant forms of such influence activities should be criminalised.
He made the proposal in a written statement on changes in the security environment of Finland.
The criminalisation, he outlined, could apply to situations where a person is seeking to maliciously influence societal decision-making or spread unfounded and misleading information about decision-making or the state of society on behalf of or on assignment from a foreign intelligence service. Ari Koponen (PS) in May asked the Parliament to take the required action to implement the proposal.
Teemu Turunen, the deputy director at Supo, on Saturday stressed to YLE that the scope of the possible criminalisation should be carefully delineated.
“It’s naturally tremendously important that freedom of speech is fully protected in a rule-of-law state,” he underscored. “We’d be talking about situations where a person knows they are acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service and continuing their activity in spite of the warnings of officials.”
The proposal is intriguing but not necessarily necessary, indicated Kimmo Nuotio, a professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki.
“I’d personally view that the real protection against information influence comes through public debate and the media. Information literacy here considerably undermines possibilities to sway public opinion,” he noted. “It’s possible, however, that a very carefully delineated criminalisation could be possible in this realm.”
Also Turunen acknowledged that a high level of media literacy, widespread trust in officials and independent free media undermine the effectiveness of information influence in Finland. Supo is nevertheless of the opinion that there is room to beef up safeguards against disinformation campaigns.
“In addition to [the strengths], we think it’d be useful to mull over how we could improve our preparedness.”
Supo also called attention to a loophole in the law on electronic communication services: the fact that endangering national security is not grounds for denying a programming licence for digital radio or television broadcasting. Permit authorities, thus, are unable to deny an application even if it was obvious that the activity would constitute information influence conducted on behalf of a foreign state.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT