A war of information: Both sides fight in the Ukraine-Russia conflict

March 18, 2022


Russia has blocked or restricted access to social media platforms within Russia, made it illegal to use the words "war" or "invasion," and signed into law jail penalties for anyone who broadcasts or publishes information about the invasion that the Russian government deems to be false.

But fact-checkers have also found cases in which Ukraine’s government has shared misleading content.

Some of Ukraine’s official social media accounts have pushed stories of questionable veracity, like the heroic yet unverified account of the Ghost of Kyiv, a single pilot who single-handedly shot down several Russian fighter jets. Others have shared fake road signs with expletives aimed at Russians to boost morale. Government accounts have re-shared videos with digital effects that depict unreal explosions in Paris, France, in order to evoke emotion in the international community...

"If Ukrainian officials passed off digitally altered signs as authentic, that's somewhat problematic," said Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University. "But in the midst of war, I think there are much greater concerns. After all, believing these signs are real is unlikely to harm anyone. In fact, it's more likely to have positive impacts by, for example, boosting Ukrainians' morale."

At most, she added, it gives the Russian government some fodder to say that Ukrainian officials lie – "but the Russian government is saying that already."

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