8 Nov 2023

CMI gets EU Horizon project on authoritarian states’ control of information

How do authoritarian states try to control information beyond their borders? CMI’s new EU Horizon project explores how authoritarian states suppress information and will make a practitioners’ toolkit for how to counter it.

The EU Horizon project ‘ARM: The long arm of authoritarian states’ aims to provide an in-depth conceptual and practical understanding of how authoritarian states worldwide have used and continue to use information suppression as a strategy to control the narratives that are told about them, also beyond their national borders. More specifically, the project will analyse how Russia, China, Ethiopia and Rwanda suppress and eradicate independent voices and information, with a special focus on how this information suppression affects EU states and diaspora communities that have settled in the EU.

Project lead Lovise Aalen, research professor at CMI, says that the rising pressure on democracy is what motivated the team to design the research proposal and underlines how the project responds to the EU Horizon call for proposals that enhance democratic governance and citizen participation.

-Many European citizens cannot take political participation for granted. Their democratic rights are threatened by information suppression from actors in their country of origin. Even after moving to a different country, they are targeted by the authoritarian regimes they used to live in through for example social media, she says.

Throughout the project, the team will bring together academics, policy makers, practitioners, members of NGOs and diaspora communities.

-By including NGO and diaspora representatives we aim to empower the communities that need more information on how to detect manipulation strategies and how to respond to them, says Aalen.

The project has an important role in filling the knowledge gap when it comes to information suppression. Effective counter measures depend on a better understanding of the strategies that are used to suppress information, and the ARM project will contribute both by developing a conceptual framework and by creating a toolkit for EU practitioners on how to combat information suppression.

The project has four interlinked objectives:

  • To conceptualise information suppression as a tool for foreign information manipulation and interference
  • To identify the tactics, techniques, and procedures used for information suppression
  • To identify the effects of information suppression on individual behaviour and on society, including on marginalised groups such as women, minorities and diaspora communities
  • In line with open science principles, to collaborate with key actors in policy making and civil society to develop policy recommendations and to disseminate and communicate the research

Being awarded one of these projects is an impressive achievement, and Aalen is proud of the team that now looks forward to getting started. She emphasises the vitality and energy of the team that has many young researchers on board.

-We have a strong and multidisciplinary team, consisting of people from very diverse backgrounds – from media researchers who have worked on both social media and traditional media to political scientists and anthropologists. The team also has solid in-country expertise, says Aalen.


  • The consortium behind the project consists of CMI, the University of Helsinki, Hertie School, Maastricht University, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, the University of Tartu, Riga Stradins University, the University of Tromsø, the University of Bergen, WZB Social Science Center, and Lund University.
  • The project is led by CMI with research professor Lovise Aalen as the scientific coordinator, researcher Pauline Lemaire as project coordinator and senior adviser Katharina Maria Sewening as grants manager.