Disinformation as a Business: Business Models of the Czech Disinformation Landscape

Natália Tkáčová, Kristína Šefčíková / 29 Sep 2023

The Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI) has analyzed the financial background of disinformation in the Czech Republic since 2020. Research on disinformation usually focuses on its content, but often overlooks the financial aspects and the variety of motivations behind the spread of disinformation. Knowledge concerning these aspects is crucial for employing effective tools for countering disinformation and building a healthy information space with resilient audiences. The present report demonstrates that disinformation can be a financially profitable business and defunding should be explored as a counter-strategy to malign information activities.

The report builds on PSSI’s original research and methodology and focuses on funding of websites spreading disinformation in the Czech Republic. The report firstly maps out the funding sources of these websites. In this regard, voluntary contributions and ad revenue stand out as the main channels of generating income and their modus operandi is explored in detail. Where information is available, the report also provides income estimates of the websites in specific numbers to illustrate the potential of monetizing disinformation.

Based on this data, the report proceeds to identify four business models of the Czech disinformation landscape: Preachers, Businessmen, Healers, and Esoterics. These business models illustrate the variety of motivations behind the spread of disinformation, from ideological to financial. They also help understand the modus operandi of Czech websites spreading disinformation and can serve as an aid for choosing the right strategy to curb their malign activities. The conclusion then provides practical recommendations on how to explore defunding as a counter-disinformation strategy. 

The project was implemented in partnership with the Visegrad Insight, Res Publica Foundation, and supported by the Czech-Polish Forum program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.