Author of the idea, performer: Magda Szpecht
Co-producers: the Sirenos Festival, Nowy Teatr, Warsaw
DATE: 30 September, 19:00
VENUE: Arts Printing House, Pocket Hall (Šiltadaržio str. 6, Vilnius)
Magda Szpecht is a young Polish director who decided that the time was not appropriate for art when the war in Ukraine broke out. Having set aside all the art projects and premiers under development, she became what is called an “online elf”. Magda is part of a virtual elven army in which anonymous soldiers fight Russian trolls and propaganda to get real facts about what’s going on through an endless stream of disinformation.
The pandemic has shown that our lives can go on even if we are disembodied. Magda leads us to where the disembodied war is being waged, but both the war itself and its soldiers are real people.
Artistic Director of the Festival
Russia’s disinformation networks found themselves in trouble after the invasion of Ukraine. As the horrors of the conflict unfolded in broad daylight, adapting this discourse to the needs of Kremlin strategists became a daunting task. So in Poland, pro-Russian agitators immediately took action on the Internet with a new strategy: to deter Poles from helping Ukrainian refugees at a time when the country is facing an unprecedented wave of migrants. In this context, a new type of digital activism has emerged in the country: the so-called “cyber elves”, whose mission is to put Kremlin trolls right back where they belong.
Brave elves destroying crowds of dark trolls in an ideological conflict over future humanity. This is not the beginning of a science fiction novel, it is an accurate description of daily life that responds to realities in cyberspace across Europe. Elves, a group of cyber activists fighting pro-Kremlin propaganda and disinformation campaigns, are still a relatively obscure phenomenon. Starting back in 2014 in Lithuania, the movement of less than 20 people expanded to 13 Central and Eastern European countries, and in 2021 already had about 4,000 volunteers involved.
Russia’s information operations against Western democracy are increasing in number, scale, and complexity. Cyber elves operate anonymously and focus on combating hybrid threats primarily perpetrated by the Kremlin and its agents. These elves are independent of states and government. Their activities are strictly legal: they strongly condemn any form of criminal activity, such as hacking or cyber espionage, and they themselves limit and monitor Russia’s misinformation and people responsible for it, such as the ones we call trolls. Most of the data collected by elves is shared with the public and the media. Elves have developed an international collaboration across Europe that is largely about intelligence and information sharing.
Polish artist Magda Szpecht invites the audience to a lecture-show, in which it will get introduced to the activities of cyber elves.
About the creator:
Magda Szpecht, 32, is one of the first cyber elves in Poland. The theater director and feminism activist discovered this activity during the migration crisis caused by the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the summer of 2021. “It was a moment when real atrocities were approaching our borders and I felt the need to act,” says Magda Szpecht.