Social Media Has Provided A Skewed Account Of The War In Ukraine - Social Media Explorer
Social Media Has Provided A Skewed Account Of The War In Ukraine
Social Media Has Provided A Skewed Account Of The War In Ukraine

Long ago, war’s first casualty has been known to be the truth. Although social media makes it possible for eye witnesses in the field to report on what is happening, many platforms also provide a biased account due the spreading of misinformation, disinformation, or both.

These videos, which were “deepfakes” and featuring both Volodymyr and Vladimir Putin as Ukrainian presidents, have appeared in recent weeks. Many images and videos, however, have been shown out of context.

We can be skeptical about believing anything if one fake post is posted.

“Misinformation generally comes in two broad flavors – intentional and unintentional. Unintentional misinformation, which is less pervasive, refers to the propagation of stories, memes or narratives one finds amusing and interesting. A viral urban legend is misinformation. However, it’s not usually dangerous.” explained William V. Pelfrey Jr. Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

The battle against intentional misinformation continues, and is waged both by the state as well as non-state actors. Russian news continues to provide a steady stream of misinformation for the Russian people,” Pelfrey stated. Pelfrey said that the promised de-Nazification (or “de-Nazification”) of Ukraine, which elected a Jewish president is an example.

Ukrainians responded by launching their misinformation campaigns.

Pelfrey stated that Pelfrey gave an example of Russian conscripts captured and imploring not to be returned to Russia. “While there may be some prisoners who don’t want to return, portraying Russian prisoners as cowards serves many purposes – bolstering the confidence of Ukrainian soldiers, demoralizing Russian soldiers, and denigrating Putin’s authority.”

Real Time Watching The War

The social media revolution has made it possible to document this conflict in a way previously impossible. It is truly the first social media war, but in addition to allowing anyone with a camera phone to chronicle their story, it is also allowing misinformation – and even disinformation – to flow faster than ever.

Kent Bausman (Ph.D.), professor of sociology at Maryville University’s Online Sociology Program, stated that “the principal reason some may argue that this war is the most documented to this point is because there is considerable misinformation regarding the war in Ukraine.”

Social media gives the mass the chance to be their own independent reporter and document the conflict. Bausman added that, although we now have more information about the events on the ground this new reality allows us to document them better, but it’s still not possible to set up the proper mechanism for verifying such documentation.”

Media coverage has been influenced by technology in many ways. Since the American Civil War was when photography first became popular, and the way that the Telegraph allowed for news to quickly travel long distances via the telephone lines has proven this to be true.

Where social media is different is that it is allowing opinion to also enter in the picture – and not just from the reporters on the ground.

Bausman said, “If you think back to Vietnam War and the first Gulf War. Freelance reporters, regardless their view on these wars were dependent upon traditional media outlets to vet the documentation and provide opinions about their veracity.” Bausman said that social media with all its various platforms have yet to create an equivalent filter set. Bad actors can now use social media to distribute misinformation, and create the narrative about events.

With the advent of social media bots, misinformation has become more widespread and can be shared in an almost uncontrollable manner.

Bausman stated that “Overall we shouldn’t surprise by the levels of misinformation about the war in Ukraine up to this point.” “The Russians began using and testing social media in hybrid warfare when they invaded Crimea in 2014. It is fascinating to see how these same tools are used against them now in order to influence the narrative for Ukraine.

Extended Disinformation Campaign

Social media information campaigns such as the current one are not new. Even before Russia launched its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, a misinformation/disinformation campaign was underway.

The eight-year conflict in Donbas, east Ukraine was escalated by this invasion. Russia used disinformation campaigns to obscure truthful and fact-driven information regarding the conflict in Ukraine. Naim Kapucu, a Pegasus professor of Public Administration and Policy and joint faculty of the School of Politics, Security and International Affairs at The University of Central Florida, warned that Russia had continued using continuous disinformation campaigns.

Russia’s massive scale of misinformation campaigns featuring headlines such “Putin to Save Ukrainians From Nazis”, is staggering. Kapucu stated that the disinformation narratives were effective and spread widely through social media. They spent time shaping public discourse and capitalizing upon misrepresentations about history, language, politics.

Although some of these disinformation campaigns may not be obvious to many people, they were crucial for accurate depiction. Kapucu explained.

Kapucu said that Kapucu used terms like “crisis”, “conflict”, or “military operation” to try and lessen the invasion of Ukraine. Many of its followers and social media users abroad spread this information warfare and disinformation from the Russian government. This is done to question the facts and create doubt about information regarding Ukraine’s war.

Social Media Becomes More Important Than Mainstream Media

Social media is becoming more popular as the primary source for information. This is a danger because what’s posted on Twitter, TikTok and Telegram could become fact even if traditional media reports say otherwise.

Pelfrey stated that misinformation can be attributed to the speed at which news stories about important issues are spread. A powerful story or image is picked up quickly, shared, reposted and tweeted. It quickly becomes news. Before circulating a story, reliable news agencies require independent confirmation. Because social media doesn’t require confirmation, misinformation can spread quickly. First time ever in major conflicts, militaries dedicate themselves to spreading misinformation through social media.

It could be as simple as posting that a Ukrainian farmer had offered to sell a captured tank. However, disinformation could also refer to reports about atrocities that were used in order justify an invasion. These stories can be believed by those who share them on social media.

Pelfrey said that the proliferation and evolution of social networking into an information delivery vehicle has made misinformation exponentially more prevalent and dangerous than just a few decades ago. We will need to all be skeptical about what we read.

SME Paid Under

About the Author

Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

VIP Explorer’s Club