Every dictatorship creates its newspeak to legitimize its actions. Russian authorities and media focus on two main disinformation strategies regarding the war in Ukraine. One is, referring to the invasion and everything attached to it as a special military operation. The second key disinformation narrative concerns Ukrainian refugees and appeared around a week later. It began emerging in Czech, Slovak and Polish information spaces after the arrival of the first refugee wave. The disinformation campaigns focus on the exploitation of already established, generally negative attitude toward migration that has been held in these countries since the migration crisis in 2015.
Specifically, the Czech information space has been the target of a massive disinformation campaign aiming to incite hatred towards refugees, creating the impression of a divided society. Disinformation campaigns are trying to exploit this existing barrier. The familiar narrative "a refugee in every family" has reappeared, convincing people that the government will assertively place refugees into everyone's home and people will have to take care of them against their will. Another storyline highlights the alleged ingratitude of Ukrainian refugees, with made-up reports of throwing away food or refusing luxury accommodation due to its distance far from Prague.
Moreover, hateful attitudes towards refugees are being stirred up by certain political parties in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. For some politicians, helping Ukrainian refugees has become a political issue to keep them relevant for the next elections, whether parliamentary, regional or presidential. In addition, disinformation claiming that Czech companies are allegedly laying off their Czech employees to recruit cheaper, refugee labour, was disseminated on social media, followed by an influx of hateful comments and user interactions. Profiles on Facebook charged low-income communities, exploiting natural “we too have little and we are from here” insecurities by spotlighting clothing and electronics used by some incoming refugees, using pseudo arguments of them not being in need since they can "afford an iPhone" or a "brand new jacket".
The algorithms on social networks provide evidence regarding the success of disinformation campaigns. Hateful comments targeting refugees receive hundreds of likes, and deceiving posts get shared a thousand times. It is a confirmation that cyberspace is a consensual hallucination. An opinion based on that data would arrive at a substantially different conclusion than one based on official opinion polls. Only three per cent of citizens are openly against accepting and helping refugees from Ukraine, yet information space is riddled with the anti-refugee sentiment.