If, for some years now, both academic research and the public arena have been concerned with observing and analysing the effects of disinformation and information operations aimed at manipulating public opinion, the threat they pose to democracy has never been so evident than in recent years. This research, which was born in its conception in 2017, the year in which Italy was an elected member of the United Nations Security Council, and in which I had the opportunity to observe for the first time the effects of disinformation so much in relations between states, when on the public opinions of different countries, it seems all the more necessary today that the outbreak of the pandemic before and the war in Russia after they showed us clearly the danger that an influenced and manipulated public opinion can represent for democracy and national security. This research work – carried out through an ad hoc collaboration between the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, the LUISS Data Lab, the Department of Law of Luiss Guido Carli University, the Master in Journalism and Multimedia Communication of Luiss Guido Carli University, the University of Michigan and the Institute of Digital Geopolitics, and which is already in its second cycle of research – started from the need to analyse concretely the effects of manipulative campaigns in our country and evaluate policy and legislative countermeasures that can be developed in response to the problem. This research need arises from an eminently practical need that is to offer both public and private institutions tools to analyse, monitor and respond to disinformation in Italy and attacks aimed at manipulating information for political, economic or ideological purposes. This year we were also lucky to be able to add a new partner to our collaboration. The organisation #ShePersisted, founded by the scholar Lucina di Meco, which evaluates attacks – especially online – on women in the public and in politics, has participated in the drafting of a case study on this topic. So, this year, three were the topics we dealt with with the study of communities that spread disinformation in Italy. In addition to the case of gender disinformation, we continued the previous year’s studies on Italian antitivax communities and opened a new strand of research focused on disinformation in the field of climate change. However, with the emergence of the crisis in Ukraine, we have seen a sudden shift in the focus of all communities on conflict-related topics, starting in February 2022. Thanks to our work of “census” and monitoring of disinformation networks, however, we were able to immediately track these new narratives and also share this information with our partners, in order to support their monitoring in real time. It is therefore thanks to this work of study of networks and information manipulation techniques that in times of crisis, such as that of the war in Ukraine, it is possible to respond more quickly and effectively. This work was accompanied, with respect to the legal section of the research, also with the updating of the state of the art at institutional and regulatory level (in line with last year’s work), with particular reference to the analysis of the progress of the work for the approval of the EU Digital Services Act. In conclusion of the legal section of the research, the guidelines of policies aimed at public and private actors were updated, with the addition of new analytical and detailed recommendations to implement strategies to combat the phenomenon of disinformation. In general, we have noted with pleasure that, in recent years, both Italian and European institutions and other countries have understood the importance of this challenge and are putting in place concrete solutions to respond to this problem. Examples are the innovations in diplomatic communication and institutional coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the new European policies, as well as the strengthening of the Code of Practice on Disinformation, recently approved by the European Union. In the coming years, these initiatives will have to intensify and our role will be to understand how disinformation spreads in Italy to also give tools to the institutions to react. Although disinformation is not an absolute strategic novelty, technological innovations and changes to the information ecosystem of recent years have added additional levels of complexity, leading to the development of new and more sophisticated tactics and strategies, which make these campaigns faster and more effective and allow different groups of actors, both public and private, both domestic and foreign, to intervene in a deceptive way in the democratic debate. And that is why we have developed this work, which we hope will help to facilitate a greater understanding of the problem and to provide insights for policy responses, both public and private. We believe that only through collaboration between different academic research fields, public and private institutions and digital platforms will it be possible to develop effective long-term responses.   Research published by the Foreign Ministry on 30.6.2023.


Source: European Digital Skills & Jobs Platform


Digital technology / specialisation

  • Digital skills

Digital skill level

  • Basic
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Digital Expert

Geographic Scope - Country

  • Italy

Type of initiative

National initiative