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Between 2021 and the first half of 2022, Bulgaria underwent several significant political events, including presidential elections and four parliamentary elections. This period was characterized by various challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in a surge of deaths, as well as unprovoked military aggression from the Kremlin and the outbreak of a full-scale war in Ukraine. Additionally, an energy crisis occurred in Europe, causing prices to soar, including in Bulgaria.

These circumstances created an uncertain political climate in Bulgaria, leading to highly polarized public debates and opinions. Consequently, the use of disinformation, political populism, and widespread conspiracy theories became more prominent. This disinformation environment is particularly challenging due to the combination of traditional propaganda methods with viral online sharing, automated content creation, and the rise of influential individuals on social media platforms.

In many countries in Southeast Europe, including Bulgaria, citizens were exposed to a toxic mix of local and foreign misinformation and propaganda. This was further exacerbated by limited media freedom, governance deficits, and the lack of credible public policy responses to disinformation. Furthermore, large tech platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon gained significant economic and political power, allowing them to remain unresponsive to the misuse of their services and algorithms by malicious actors.

The Kremlin, along with China, took advantage of this situation and intensified their information operations and political interference in the region. They promoted nationalist, anti-migrant, misogynistic, anti-EU, and anti-NATO messaging, aiming to undermine the Euro-Atlantic positions of local governments and erode public trust in democratic values and institutions. The SEE countries, particularly Bulgaria, were vulnerable to foreign disinformation due to cognitive biases towards Russia and its authoritarian model among the general population, political parties, leaders, and the media.


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