If you are late, you are Beyond help: Disinformation and Authorities in Social Media


  • Milla Alaraatikka Finnish National Defence University
  • Pekka Koistinen National Defence University
  • Miina Kaarkoski National Defence University
  • Aki Huhtinen National Defence University
  • Teija Sederholm National Defence University




social media, disinformation, public authorities, communications, national security


Fast paced, seemingly vast and ever-growing social media is a challenging environment for public authorities to communicate optimally. One challenge is malicious disinformation, which is intentionally disseminated to deceive and cause harm to citizens and authorities. It is known that exceptional circumstances create opportunities for malicious actors to negatively influence democratic societies. Disinformation is often designed to cause uncertainty towards information that public authorities offer and to decrease the overall trust in public authorities. The aim of disinformation is often to cause polarisation in society and to weaken national security. Furthermore, in a crisis, it is essential that authorities are able to deliver official information quickly, clearly and accurately to citizens. Communication between authorities and citizens in time-sensitive situations is typically online. One challenge to public authorities is how they can mitigate and repair the effects of disinformation and information influencing in complex and time-sensitive circumstances. In this article, our aim is to describe the challenges that public authorities face when communicating in social media spaces where disinformation is present. The empirical data, including 16 government official interviews, was collected in September 2021. The main theme of the interviews was related to how situational awareness about disinformation is formed in their organisations. Our research questions focus on how public authorities detect and counter disinformation in social media and what kind of problems and pressures they have when communicating in such environments. This study follows a qualitative design and the data was analysed using inductive content analysis. This study is part of larger project related to counterforces and the detection of disinformation.  The results will provide a broader understanding of how different types of public authorities, from health to security organisations, and from agencies to ministries, communicate in complex environments such as social media.