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NATO

New Estonian-French project on disinformation supported by NATO

As Estonia celebrates twenty years in NATO, a pioneering project has been launched to examine malicious foreign interference and counter disinformation in Estonia and France, fostering experience sharing and creative collaboration. “France & Estonia - Together against disinformation” (FREETAD) has received funding from NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division and will run until Fall 2024. The French-Estonian collaboration could not be timelier, in the new strategic context and geo-political reality imposed by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with more and more frequent disinformation campaigns being aimed at both Estonian and French societies. 

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FREETAD

FREETAD became a reality thanks to the initiative of French Ambassador to Estonia, Emmanuel Mignot, who noticed similar challenges in the disinformation field being faced by France and Estonia alike, and brought together university and NGO representatives from both countries. The project is coordinated by the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies and will involve other Estonian partners, as well as a diverse consortium of French partners from prestigious academic institutions and think-tanks, including the Catholic University of Lille, the University of Bordeaux, the University of Caen Normandy, and Normandy for Peace. Combining the distinctive expertise of each participating entity, the project aspires to function as both an idea incubator and a platform for amplifying individual strengths.

FREETAD aspires to elevate societal awareness and foster cross-border collaboration among academia, public institutions, and organized civil society. Through a broad set of activities, FREETAD will produce a tangible and lasting impact in countering malicious interference and disinformation and will enable both countries to better and more effectively react to this growing threat. To achieve this, the project plans to engage a diverse array of participants, including policy-makers, academics, practitioners, students, and individual citizens. This broad involvement is expected to generate a positive spill over effect for the broader transatlantic community, extending well beyond the official timeline of the project.

In particular, within the framework of FREETAD, the Johan Skytte Institute, together with our local partners, will

  • organize a fact-finding mission of French experts to Estonia that will include a high-level visit in Tartu and Tallinn, an academic symposium, and a scenario planning exercise;
  • coordinate a joint online student-led experience involving Estonian and French learners who will attend a webinar on disinformation and conduct joint collaborative projects on how to counter malicious foreign interference; and
  • support the organization of an expert panel discussion within the framework of the Normandy for Peace World Forum to be held in Caen (France) in September 2024.

French Ambassador to Estonia Emmanuel Mignot welcomes the initiative, stating “This new joint project corresponds to shared interests of both Estonia and France and is particularly relevant in the context of aggressive Russian disinformation operations.”

In the words of Dr. Stefano Braghiroli, Associate Professor of European Studies at the University of Tartu and academic coordinator of the project, “FREETAD is not only an extremely valuable opportunity to share experiences and practices with colleagues and bring academia and the world of policy making closer, but also a very concrete tool to increase the democratic resilience and critical awareness of our societies.”

According to Dr. Giulia Sandri, Associate Professor at the Catholic University of Lille and expert in the consortium, “In an era marked by the proliferation of disinformation, this joint initiative holds high significance. French students and citizens alike face an escalating challenge: the ability to discern and manage the overflow of misleading information flooding our digital ecosystems. By equipping them with the tools to recognize and combat disinformation, we empower the next generation to safeguard democratic processes, media integrity, and public trust.”


This project is (co)sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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