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  • War in Ukraine and Disinformation Newsletter 17 March 2022

    17 March 2022

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    The War in Ukraine: Propaganda Warfare on the Rise

    We selected the most relevant media and research publications that explain how misinformation and influence operations during the Russia-Ukraine war are changing the global information environment. The newsletter is a collaboration between the Programme on Democracy and Technology and PeaceTech Lab. It is prepared by Dr Aliaksandr Herasimenka and Danielle Recanati.

    News Briefing

    Russian state media stoked fears online in the pivotal days before the war. This included spreading disinformation about Ukraine’s nuclear ambitions, reports the Washington Post, based on research by Philip Howard and the Programme on Democracy and Technology. The researchers also found that in the first weeks of the war, narratives discussing alleged US-funded biological labs in Ukraine gained special prominence in the Russia-linked English-speaking media. These media outlets also featured multiple Moldova-related stories – a country that borders Ukraine and has part of its territory controlled by the Russian forces since the 1990s.As Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, partially, TikTok are blocked in Russia, access to independent information becomes very difficult for ordinary citizens, Aliaksandr Herasimenka, a researcher at the Programme on Democracy and Technology, suggests in his interview for the New York Times. Research by the Programme shows that the future reliability of the internet and telecommunications is in doubt, while the growing censorship of the Russian internet will complicate anti-war campaigns by the Russian opposition.BBC explains how RIA, a Russian state outlet, prematurely published and deleted an article praising Russia’s success in invading Ukraine. The RIA article apparently suggested how the post-war settlement and world order should look like according to Russian state thinking.Bellingcat investigates the world of Russian far-right and neo-Nazi groups, including the Male State, an online group of far-right Russian misogynists that expanded just before the invasion and became one of the most vocal boosters of Putin’s policies. The group uses disinformation, hate speech, and antisemitic slurs against Ukraine’s president, discussing a “final solution to the Ukrainian question.”Even the personal experience of Ukrainian relatives suffering from the war fails to convince their relatives in Russia that the Russian state media spreads disinformation. Meduza reports that the audiences of the Russian state television would rather believe the Kremlin’s story than the personal accounts of witnesses.


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    VIINA (Violent Incident Information from News Articles) is a near-real time multi-source event data system for the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine. The dataset is based on news reports from Ukrainian and Russian media, which were geocoded and classified into standard conflict event categories through machine learning. Using an automated web scraping routine, VIINA extracts the text of news reports published by each source and their associated metadata.The Tow Center is tracking actions taken globally by platforms, publishers, and governments that affect the information ecosystem in Russia and UkraineThe dataset already includes 50 records, ranging from Russian announcement to ban Instagram to BBC’s decision to relaunch a World War II-era broadcast technology, which depicts the rapid deterioration and fragmentation of the global information environment. A similar dataset by Human Rights Watch documents actions sorting them by a platform.

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