What is the Beacon Project?
In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin is waging an increasingly aggressive campaign of interference across Europe, designed to weaken European democracy and political commitment to core transatlantic institutions such as NATO and the EU. Russian meddling ranges from cyberwarfare to sophisticated disinformation campaigns that use unverified, decontextualized and manipulated information to exacerbate societal divisions and enhance support for positions that serve Moscow’s strategic needs. IRI created the Beacon Project to counter and inoculate against this threat in Europe.
How does the Beacon Project counter state-sponsored disinformation?
Our approach rests of the following pillars:
Exposing false, manipulative, and corrosive narratives promoted by the Kremlin;
Identifying social vulnerabilities among groups receptive to disinformation; and
Facilitating a coordinated response by the transatlantic community, European governments and civil society that counters Russian meddling.
The Beacon Project leverages IRI’s extensive network of relationships with key European stakeholders and the Institute’s expertise in strengthening democratic institutions. Beacon is distinct from other more technologically oriented interventions in its focus on the political, social and economic dynamics that create the environment for disinformation to thrive in Central and Eastern Europe. Rather than directly confronting every instance of disinformation, IRI’s focus is to dismantle the underlying conditions that allow it to work. In the end, strengthening the institutions of democracy is the most efficient and effective way of addressing the disinformation phenomenon.
What specific approach does the Beacon Project take?
Our approach is realized through the following program components:
Activating Local Partners: The Beacon Project has built a network of more than 300 active members from 27 countries to address the issue of Russian meddling into democratic processes in Europe. Our wide-ranging Beacon Network includes individuals from political parties, national parliaments, the European Parliament, governments, academia, tech, civil society, and media.
Media Monitoring: The Beacon Project’s proprietary >versus< media-monitoring tool exposes the way in which disinformation flows through media platforms by empowering monitors to more easily collect and analyze data on connections between disinformation and anti-liberal actors. >versus< is used by Beacon’s in-country partners who have media monitoring activities in place or are interested in building such capacity. Combined with IRI’s sophisticated public-opinion research, social network analysis and audio-visual monitoring, >versus< gives IRI unique insights into the political weaknesses that leave countries vulnerable to Russian influence.
Public Opinion Research: To date, the Beacon Project has conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative public opinion research focusing on vulnerabilities to disinformation narratives in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland Slovakia and Germany. IRI uses this data to show policymakers how hostile actors hijack legitimate citizen concerns through targeted messaging campaigns. Future public opinion research will focus on the Baltic Republics and Western Balkans.
How is what you're doing any different from what you accuse Vladimir Putin of doing except for America?
IRI's work, through the Beacon Project and in other democracy-assistance projects around the world, is grounded in American values and interests: We are driven by the principles of liberal democracy and self-determination. Fundamentally, we seek to help foreign countries strengthen their sovereign autonomy to govern themselves. Rather than imposing our will on others, we aim to equip our partners with the tools to build political systems that reflect their own needs. That is what democracy is all about.
Our core belief is that the world is more safe, stable, and prosperous when people get more involved in their own governance. The Kremlin's approach to its neighbors relies on coercive tactics such as disinformation, cyberwarfare, assassination, and more. That approach is an anathema to a democratic society because it subverts the will of voters to elect their own leaders and direct policy in their countries, and denies people the choice to determine their own destiny.
The Beacon Project cannot be successful as a solely American initiative. If it were it would be doomed to failure. That's why we work openly with individuals and organizations who understand the intricacies of their local context better than outsiders possibly could, and work alongside them as equal partners. Learn more about our partners here.
How is the Beacon Project funded?
The Beacon Project is an initiative of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and is funded through grants. Our current funding comes from the U.S. State Department and the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). The Beacon Project has also received previous funding from the U.K. Foreign Commonwealth Office and the NATO Public Diplomacy Division.
Where does the Beacon Project Operate?
The Beacon Project field office is located in Brussels, Belgium, with a secondary office in Bratislava, Slovakia, with team members who support the project in each location. The core of the Beacon Project’s operations are in three regions of Central and Eastern Europe: the Visegrad Four (V4), including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic; the Western Balkans, including Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina; and the Baltic States, including Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
When the Beacon Project began, it was limited solely to the V4, which remains the area where Beacon has the broadest range of partners. Starting in 2018, Beacon expanded to the Western Balkans and Baltic States. This has entailed cultivating an expanded network of partners in these regions to connect to each other and wider Europe in countering malign influence campaigns throughout Europe.
Go here to learn more about where we work : V4, Western Balkans, Baltics
Do you operate in the United States?
No. The Beacon Project, and all of IRI’s democracy-assistance work, is solely international. While our organization is based in the U.S., the work is conducted entirely in Europe for the benefit of people and nations in Europe.
Who are your partners?
Find out more about them on our partners page here .
I’m still not sold. How can I verify this is all on the up and up?