Recognising the dangers of Russian disinformation in Ukraine

russian disinformation
© Mykyta Starychenko

Russian forces have launched an assault on major Ukrainian cities, however, there is another battle going on online concerning Russian disinformation

In a piece for Politico, chief tech correspondent Mark Scott was able to interview Liubov Tsybulska, founder of — and now adviser to — Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security that tracks hybrid threats of both cyber-attacks and disinformation targeting the country.

Propaganda war

With the advancement of technology constantly moving forward, Russia appears to be using the technology to its advantage. With the media being inundated with reports of disinformation and faked footage being used to place blame on Ukrainian citizens.

“We see that propaganda activities have intensified over the last couple of months. We see that there are many, many attempts to blame Ukraine for killing civilians, saying that Ukrainian armies are trying to attack. There is no logic in it at all because why would the Ukrainian army provoke and attack civilians having 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine?” said Tsybulska.

Concerns of Russian propaganda have reached UK parliament with the UK culture secretary recently having written to Ofcom about suspicions the Russian TV station RT shouldn’t be allowed to broadcast ‘harmful disinformation’ on UK TV.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a review of the channel after a challenge by opposition leader Keir Starmer. “We must also do more to defeat [Vladimir] Putin’s campaign of lies and disinformation,” Starmer said. “Russia Today is his personal propaganda tool. I can see no reason why it should be allowed to continue to broadcast in this country.”

Tsybulska views of the ‘propaganda machine’

“They spread this on different levels. At a national level, there are the main Russian media, which most of the time are fully funded and orchestrated by the Kremlin. Then there are many, many local media. They send them so-called propaganda message boxes. But also they have, mostly under the GRU (Russia’s military intelligence agency), a lot of Telegram channels where they spread disinformation.”

When asked what the best strategy to combat Russian disinformation is, Tsybulska said “we should debunk (falsehoods.) I’m not among those people who say that debunking is not working. I think it is working. But we should do more explicitly with our own narratives. This is proactive work, and this is what we lack because a Russian propaganda machine is extremely centralized.”

Propaganda, disinformation and deepfake technology all have the potential to endanger national security, undermine social and political stability along with numerous other issues. International governments along with the general public need to be careful about the media they are consuming and where it is coming from in order to sift out truth from lies.


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