Social media against disinformation about Ukraine

I social media contro la disinformazione sull

From day one, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine massively involved social media. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube e TikTok they turned out to be the main sources of information “from the front”. At the same time, however, the platforms have begun to be populated with fake news on the invasion led by Putin. Enough to convince the tech giants to put in place moderation strategies well-researched, which could guarantee users to get truthful news about the conflict. And so, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj is busy fighting his war against Putin, social media are fighting disinformation.

Russia-Ukraine: disinformation on the conflict passes through social networks

Even before the Russian invasion, Facebook and Twitter began to populate with posts claiming that the Ukrainian government was conducting a “genocide” of civilians in the Donbass, the region that includes the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. You will not be surprised to know that the contents have been shared by the magazine RTfunded directly by the Russian government. Evidence of disinformation which has absolutely not gone unnoticed. Added to this was the circulation of videos claiming to show some of the highlights of the invasion, but which had actually been shot many years earlier. And also that of contents with “false flag activities” – false flags -, ie images that show some military operations as organized by the adversaries.

The top five media outlets backed by Putin’s government used Facebook and Twitter to share reports of attacks suffered by the Ukrainian military. And to accuse the NATO countries of hitting the breakaway republics of Ukraine to tarnish Russia’s reputation. Fake news, which, however, had enormous visibility on social media. In the last seven days, the Facebook posts of these magazines, in fact, have collected well 4 million interactions. And in the same period, the official Fox News page received 3.8 million interactions. “We see that there are many, many attempts to accuse Ukraine of killing civilians, claiming that the Ukrainian army is moving to attack. The propaganda activities have greatly intensified in recent weeks, ”he commented Liubov Tsybulskafounder of the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communication.

But the fake news on the Russian-Ukraine conflict populates not only the most well-known platforms, but also the smaller ones, such as Telegram. Here the Russian channels spread false and biased news about what is happening. But it is clear that the Messaging App has a far shorter reach than Facebook and Twitter. In any case, the disinformation problem it’s making itself heard loud and clear. “It is deeply concerning that pro-Russian disinformation has more than doubled in the region in recent weeks,” said Republican Adam Schiff. “Social media companies need to rapidly expand their efforts to detect Russian falsehoods and prevent their platforms from being exploited in the conflict.”

Social media vs disinformation: all the strategies implemented by the platforms

As Putin fights his war, social media is engaged in the battle against disinformation about the conflict. While platforms have worked hard to improve the fight against fake news, the Eastern European conflict is putting their protocols to the test. Precisely for this reason, the companies are running for cover. Metafor example, has recently announced a “Special Operations Center”To moderate Russia-Ukraine war content in real time. A body “made up of experts (including native speakers) so that we can closely monitor the situation and act as quickly as possible”. It will be up to them to remove the false and biased content disseminated by Russian accounts to put the Ukrainian government in a bad light.

Twitterinstead, it seems to rely on its “Rules on artificial and manipulated multimedia contents“. Therefore, the platform limited itself to limiting dangerous content and suspending accounts. Although in some cases moderation errors have led to the blocking of accounts of researchers and analysts in the sector. A problem that seems common to most of the social networks. Francoise Ballet-Blu, a French lawmaker, saw one of his Ukraine-focused videos removed from TikTok. An action that is part of the platform’s strategy to limit the dissemination of “content that promotes violence or harmful disinformation”. Probably, however, social media algorithms still struggle to distinguish fake news from real information.

In any case, it is undeniable that social media is taking steps to reduce the circulation of fake news about the situation between Russia and Ukraine. Of all, Meta seems to be the company that most of all is fighting fake news. And this could also be linked to the documents leaked by the informant Frances Haugenwhich suggested that disinformation in Ukraine was not a priority for Facebook. The “Prioritizing Countries for 2021” report ranked countries 1 to 3 for the type of internal content moderation and monitoring offered by the company to protect local users. Here Russia was listed in the highest priority range, but Ukraine was not mentioned. Now, however, the Ukrainian situation appears to be one of Meta’s main priorities. And with good reason.

On the other hand, “information warfare was at the heart of creating the pretext for this invasion and continues to be an important piece of the Kremlin operation,” said Accountable Tech’s Lehrich. And Putin’s government knows this well. In the last few hours, in fact, Russia blocked access to Twitter to limit the flow of information within the territory. And last Friday it did the same with Facebook, after the platform removed the accounts of four national newspapers. An action that the government saw as a violation of the “rights and freedoms of Russian citizens”.

“We are aware that Twitter is subject to restrictions for some people in Russia and we are working to keep our service safe and accessible,” the platform reported in a tweet posted a few days ago. Conversely, Internet access remains active in Ukraine. And users can freely access Twitter. The problem, therefore, seems to concern only Russia. Not surprisingly, some analysts have expressed concerns that Russian forces may seize telecommunications infrastructure and establish an internet blackout as the conflict escalates. For the moment, however, it seems only a hypothesis. What is certain, however, is that social media is doing everything to give us a truthful version of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.