The Swedish government has decided to commission a special investigator to prepare and implement the formation of a new authority, called the Agency for Psychological Defence.
Located in the cities of Karlstad and Solna for better cooperation with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and the Swedish Security Police, the new 50-strong authority will be tasked with “protecting the open and democratic society, the free formation of opinion and Sweden's freedom and independence”.
“An important part of the work is to strengthen the overall ability to identify and meet undue information influence and other dissemination of misleading information directed at Sweden. Information influence in the form of, for instance, misinformation and rumours can constitute a threat to Sweden's democracy, decision-making and self-determination,” the government said in a statement.
Centre Party MP Daniel Bäckström said that it implies a strengthening of the total defence. "It is important to protect and safeguard our open and democratic society. Given the security policy situation, it has deteriorated in recent years. An example is that misleading information about the pandemic is spread," Bäckström told national broadcaster SVT.
The special investigator must take the necessary measures to ensure that the authority commences its activities on 1 January 2022 – allowing it ample time before the parliamentary elections later that year.
In an Orwellian nod, the authority whose goal was described as “strengthening the population's psychological resilience”, has been dubbed the “Ministry of Truth” by critics, including the news outlet Fria Tider.
On social media, the news was met with a flood of angry comments.
“Then Sweden will finally have its Ministry of Truth. Congratulations, boys! #1984”, one commenter wrote.
Då får alltså Sverige äntligen sitt sanningsministerium. Grattis, svennar! #1984— Hans Østnell (@barentsdx) March 18, 2021
“The Ministry of Truth is now being established”, another one reacted.
Nu inrättas sanningsministeriet. https://t.co/LHuuuaQ4G0— Dan Andersson (@WestStream2) March 18, 2021
“The psychological defence will decide what is truth and what is lies before the election”, another one mused.
Psykförsvaret – vill bestämma vad som är sanning och lögn inför valet https://t.co/TWbYhipqpn— Anders Wester (@AndersWester1) March 18, 2021
“Damn, how they are playing games with taxpayers' money”, yet another one wrote.
Fan vad man leker med våra skattepengar!😡— Adam A Montille (@AMontille) March 18, 2021
In its fresh yearbook, the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO) has warned of increased threats, including foreign powers that exploit the polarisation in society. In particular, Russia, China and Iran were named as the largest threats as regards “disinformation”.