Government taking strong action against disinformation and rumour-spreading campaign
Since December 2021, disinformation has been spread concerning Swedish social services taking Muslim children into care without a legal basis. According to the Swedish Psychological Defence Agency, there are no indications that the campaign will cease in the near future. Social services employees are being threatened and, in the worst case scenario, this risks leading to children in Sweden not receiving the social support to which they are entitled. The Government is now taking several measures to counteract the disinformation that is being disseminated.
Rumours and disinformation are being spread, mainly on social media, about Swedish social services kidnapping Muslim children without a legal basis. The Swedish Psychological Defence Agency considers the campaign to be one of the most serious in a long time, that it will not end anytime soon and that long-term measures are needed to counteract disinformation and rumour-spreading. Social services are the backbone of the Swedish welfare system, and their work to protect children and youth from neglect or mistreatment is crucial. The Government is now taking several measures to counteract the disinformation.
“This type of disinformation campaign has devastating consequences when social workers can no longer carry out their important work. It affects children who are neglected or mistreated. The Government is therefore proceeding with a series of new measures on several fronts, to push back against disinformation and strengthen social services,” says Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
“I’m pleased that the Government has listened to the needs we have raised to respond to threats and violence against people working in the welfare sector, and is now working on several of the measures we proposed,” says Peter Danielsson, President of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.
Measures to counteract disinformation
- The Swedish Psychological Defence Agency will be tasked with strengthening capacity to respond to influence campaigns.
- The National Board of Health and Welfare will receive an enhanced mandate to counteract rumour-spreading and disinformation about social services. The mandate includes close dialogue with the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Psychological Defence Agency and the Swedish Agency for Support to Faith Communities.
- The penalty for violence or threats against public officials should be tougher, and insulting a public official should be criminalised. The Government will give supplementary terms of reference to the inquiry Åtgärder för att minska offentliganställdas utsatthet (‘Measures to mitigate the vulnerability of public sector employees’ (Ju2022:02)). This also includes drafting proposals for enhanced protection of public sector employees’ personal data.
- A proposal for consideration by the Council of Legislation will be adopted, to enable the use of security officers in more instances, such as at social services offices.
“I want to make it clear that Swedish legislation does not discriminate on the basis of sex or religion. I also want to make it clear that Swedish social services do not kidnap children. Social services are the last-resort safety net of the welfare system. This disinformation campaign is therefore unacceptable, and the Government is taking a strong stand against the disinformation and the spreading of rumours,” says Minister for Social Services Camilla Waltersson Grönvall.
“It is unacceptable that police and social workers, for example, are being subjected to violence, threats, harassment or undue influence because of their profession. By extension, this also constitutes an attack on our society. The Government has therefore taken the decision to give the inquiry more stringent supplementary terms of reference so as to seriously strengthen the protection of public sector employees,” says Minister for Justice Gunnar Strömmer.
More about the measures
The Swedish Psychological Defence Agency should strengthen its resilience to malign information influence against social services
The Government is tasking the Swedish Psychological Defence Agency with strengthening resilience to malign information influence against social services. The mandate includes coordinating with relevant authorities in other countries that are being targeted with similar influence campaigns. The Agency should also regularly produce in-depth status reports concerning malign information influence, and advise affected actors on strategic communication to respond to identified information influence activities.
Amendment of the National Board of Health and Welfare’s mandate
The National Board of Health and Welfare has previously been tasked with counteracting rumour-spreading and disinformation about social services. The Government is providing an additional SEK 4 million for 2023 and amending the mandate. The National Board of Health and Welfare should now reinforce its efforts through enhanced dialogue with relevant actors, and work for enhanced awareness about the work of social services. It is of the utmost importance that the National Board of Health and Welfare is present and communicates facts where disinformation is disseminated.
Inquiry to strengthen protection of public sector employees
The Government has adopted supplementary terms of reference for the inquiry on measures to mitigate the vulnerability of public sector employees (Ju2022:02). Under the supplementary terms of reference, the Inquiry is to present legislative proposals that make the penalty for violence or threats against public officials stricter, and introduce a new offence targeting insults towards public officials. The Inquiry is also tasked with presenting legislative proposals to reduce the exposure of public sector employees’ names in decisions and other documentation of measures, and stronger protection of personal data concerning public sector employees and their close relatives.
A new act concerning security officers
The Government has decided to refer a proposal to the Council on Legislation for a new act concerning security officers. The proposal concerns more flexible and increased use of security officers, and security officers should also be granted more powers, including – if certain conditions are met – transporting certain people in custody, destroying confiscated alcohol and conducting body searches to determine people’s identity.