Handbook for private individuals

Antagonistic foreign powers can use disinformation, misleading information and propaganda to harm Sweden. Here you will find concrete tips to improve your and Sweden’s resilience.

"Don´t be fooled" website

You are a part of Sweden’s psychological defence. If you are able recognise and deal with disinformation, misleading information and propaganda, it will be more difficult for antagonistic foreign powers to cause division. This in turn helps protect Sweden and Swedish interests. The harder it is to fool you, the stronger our open, democratic society will be.

Watch out

Watch out for information, images or other material that you find upsetting or frightening, or that evoke strong feelings. Antagonistic foreign powers frequently play on your emotions to influence you.

There are a lot of different methods that can be used to create and disseminate disinformation, misleading information and propaganda to influence you. Multiple methods are often used simultaneously to achieve greater impact.

One common method involves creating stories, or narratives, which can be completely false or only partly true, but which are skewed and taken out of context in order to mislead, polarise, and divide.

Another common method involves targeting specific groups of people. This is known as targeted disinformation. A hostile third party – a threat actor – will tailor information to a particular group and then work methodically to reach out specifically to them – and only them – through social media or other channels.

Be on the lookout for the following characteristics of disinformation, misleading information and propaganda:

  • it is misleading and often has a hidden agenda,
  • it targets our vulnerabilities, and
  • it is intended to disrupt and manipulate public discourse and to break down trust in our society.

Think twice

Avoid becoming a part of the spread of disinformation, misleading information and propaganda. Think twice before sharing information with friends or on social media.

Antagonistic foreign powers can use recurring stories (narratives) about Sweden. They want residents of Sweden to worry more, come into conflict with each other and feel that Sweden is a bad country to live in. A polarised society is more vulnerable, making it easier for anyone intent on harming us to achieve their objectives.

Who are they targeting?

Antagonistic foreign powers can tailor their communication activities and then target specific parts of the population. If you see something and think, “There’s something in that,” it might be because you are part of the target group – which is why it is essential to think twice.

Images and videos that evoke strong emotions

Images are a particularly compelling way to mislead someone. The rapid rise of artificial intelligence (AI) means that manipulated images, videos and voice recordings have become more realistic in a short space of time. These images can spread rapidly when something happens.

Authentic images and videos from an incident can also sometimes be used in a different context. Even basic recordings on a mobile phone can be used to influence people. The spread of disinformation, misleading information and propaganda increases on social media when major incidents occur.

Check the source

Learn how digital platforms work and be critical of sources. In a time when algorithms control much our feeds, it is easy to get drawn into a specific narrative – but remember to take a step back and double­check the information.

Social media is built on algorithms. These algorithms can manipulate us on a massive scale, and they control much of what we are exposed to in our feeds. They are designed to draw engagement, which can of course be used to spread both positive and negative messages alike. This means that you must be aware of how you react when you see something that makes you exhilarated, sad or angry. Equally important is to double-check sources, search for information in multiple places and not share information if you do not know its origin.

Questions you can ask yourself when you receive new information:

  • Is the information accurate? Is it reasonable? Can I double-check it through other sources?
  • Where does the information come from? Is this normally a credible source?
  • How old is the information? Is it new or a re-use of old data?
  • Why is this information being disseminated? Who benefits from you reacting to it in a particular way?

1. URL

Imitating well­known platforms is a common tactic. Take a closer look at the website address (the URL) to check that it is correct.

2. Headline

The goal is to pique interest and trigger a response from the reader. Always read more than just the headline, and make sure that the rest of the content backs it up.

3. Content

Is it opinion or fact? Read the entire text before you share it or pass the information on.

4. Author

Consider who has written the text, and why. Be on the lookout for texts with no author.

5. Photos

Manipulating images is easy, and you cannot be sure that the image has a genuine connection to the content. Perform an image search to find out whether the image has been used previously in a different context.

6. Sources

If the text makes references to other sources, check them.


Who is commenting? Most of the time it is ordinary people, but troll accounts and bots are not uncommon.

8 Attention

Just because a text has a lot of likes or shares does not guarantee that the content is accurate.

A bot (from “robot”) is a computer program that performs tasks automatically, such as spreading certain types of information on social media. A bot can be used to amplify certain messages, to spam forums and comments sections, to like or share social media posts or to commit cyber-attacks. Bots are harder to identify nowadays, as they take on the look and feel of authentic accounts with the help of AI.

1. Profile picture

Bots often use a stolen image or have no profile picture at all. Perform an image search to check its authenticity. With the onset of generative AI, creating images that look real is easier than ever. When this happens, an image search will not produce any results, and the image is not actually classified as stolen.

2. Activity

Many bots are extremely active. Be on the lookout for accounts with a suspiciously high number of posts per day.

3. Name

Most bots use randomised usernames, such as combinations of scrabbled numbers and letters.

4. Account creation date

Many bot accounts are created immediately before going live. Older accounts are sometimes used, but usually any older posts are removed beforehand, creating a time gap between the creation date and the first post.

5. Language

Bots sometimes use automated translation to spread their messages in multiple languages. This results in glaring grammatical errors or incoherent sentences.

6. Information

Bot accounts often lack personal information or use concocted or falsified information.

7. Interactions

Check the posts and other users with whom the account interacts. Bots are often coordinated and reinforce one another, while at the same time having few followers who are real people.

Look for verified information

Pay attention to information from authorities and stay up to date. This is particularly important when something happens that evokes strong emotions.

Most of us get our information from a personal selection of sources out of pure habit. When something major happens in society, most people want information immediately. In those situations, relying only on verified information is especially important.

In our digital age, with all the disinformation, misleading information and propaganda that are created and disseminated, it is important to remember that authorities only communicate verified information. Your patience may well be running thin before you get verified information. At such times, staying calm is the best you can do for yourself and for Sweden.

Remember the techniques:

  • Watch out
  • Think twice
  • Check the source
  • Look for verified information