The warning comes in a think tank report entitled “Black PR: Examining Russia’s Practice of Misinformation Laundering” today published by the Henry Jackson Society.
It considers the history of the practice and how, over recent years, it has expanded from a tactic principally used within the Russian Federation against Vladimir Putin’s political rivals into a phenomenon used in the West against businesses and businesspersons. The author points out how London’s role as a hub for civil-litigation involving Russian parties leaves the UK particularly exposed to exploitation.
The report goes on to identify instances in which ‘Black PR’ has appeared in the British courts as well as cases in which UK consultancy firms have been retained on behalf of entities with close links to the Russian State.
The blame for the corrosive effects of Black PR are placed squarely at the feet of a kleptocratic state assembled by — and for the benefit of — Vladimir Putin and his cabal of cronies.
In response to this challenge, the report recommends:
- Social media firms should permanently ban accounts tied to the propagation of Black PR.
- Collators of journalistic material and risk assessment platforms (such as Dow Jones and Lexis Nexis) should establish clearer “check yourself” and complaints procedures.
- The UK Government should urgently pass its promised ‘foreign agent registration’ legislation.
- The International Communications Consultancy Organisation should adopt documented policies and definitions of Black PR.
- In commercial disputes, English courts should subject claims made by and about Russian individuals and entities to greater scrutiny.
In the words of the author
“For many years, Black PR — while deeply corrosive to nascent prospects for democracy in the Russian Federation — was a domestic Russian problem. Today, it is a global phenomenon that is particularly prevalent in the UK.
The mendacious claims, smears, and brazen lies that sit at the heart of Black PR have very real consequences not just for UK nationals but for the faith we can place in court documents and newspaper articles. All of us in the West need to work much harder to protect our institutions and societies from this particular manifestation of the Kremlin’s misconduct.”
Dr Andrew Foxall