Social Media Platforms Can’t Keep Up With Misinformation on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

The ongoing invasion of Russia in Ukraine will test social media platform's policies on disinformation in the time of war

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TikTok

Misinformation is a huge problem for social media platforms including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and Twitter. It has gotten worse with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Social media conversations are now laden with fabricated information including recycled videos.

TikTok

TikTok has grown popular in recent years and has increasingly become a leading platform when it comes to misinformation shared on the app.


There are so many altered videos on TikTok and its algorithm which is aimed to make videos quickly go viral and it makes it harder to debunk them with the same speed.

One popular video(over 20m views) is of a guy parachuting down and the most liked comment was “bro is recording an invasion”. The video is from 2016 where it was originally posted on his Instagram.

There are other unverified videos of unrelated footage from conflicts in the past made to look like that’s happening in Ukraine.

TikTok’s popular feature – the ability to reuse audio from other videos is being used to amplify these videos by using explosion and gunfire audio.

TikTok has been removing these sounds from videos.

The same algorithm is piling these fake videos on users’ for you page with even more unrelated and old footage thus increasing anxiety and fear among users.

Bad actors are also taking to TikTok livestreams to scam users following the anti-war protests with doctored footage and recycled content and then asking for monetary donations.

Instagram

People are now following accounts that are documenting the war in Ukraine. These accounts are not run by journalists and post unverified videos and are cashing in on the conflict by running sponsored ads included in the middle of the carousel posts.

These pages can’t even delete posts that have been debunked.

These accounts are quickly growing their followers which to the average users appear trustworthy.

“War is just another thing these meme accounts can monetize”

Jackson Weimer

“People see an account like this and imagine that because it has hundreds of thousands of followers, it’s a legit account,” said Joan Donovan, research director at the Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Instagram has since removed a number of these meme accounts monetizing war.

Instagram has also taken down @PlantATreeCo’s Ukraine fundraiser. In the past, the account said it was going to plant a tree for every follower and for every story repost, a hundred trees. It did none of that.

Many of these war accounts are still gaining followers and getting engagement as the Ukraine attack is a very hot topic on the app.

Facebook

Facebook is also seeing people post gameplay videos to its Gaming platform that misleads users into thinking that it’s footage from Ukraine.

These videos go viral with thousands of views and shares across the app.

Some of these videos have been taken down with Facebook adding that they have established a Special Operations Center to respond in real-time.

Meta through Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook also shared that they are prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on their platform anywhere in the world. Facebook is also applying labels to additional Russian state media.

Telegram

The popular messaging platform has also seen its fair share of misinformation posted on the platform.

There have been fabricated posts shared on Telegram that says that the CIA has spent years training pro-Nazi groups in terrorism practices in Ukraine. Other posts seen by Bloomberg are encouraging receipts to surrender and not oppose possible Russian troop movements in eastern Ukraine with comments full of graphic images.

“Telegram just doesn’t regulate this, and it’s very dangerous,” said Liubov Tsybulska, founder of Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security speaking to Bloomberg.

Twitter

Bad actors on Twitter have also been sharing conspiracy theories and reposting old footage from previous conflicts.

“Some of the things they’ve done [in the past] like labelling, or some of the ‘think-before-you-share’ type interventions, have not been applied to this crisis in particular,” said Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center specializing in disinformation and democracy.

Twitter has also temporarily paused ads and its recommendations feature in Russia and Ukraine in a bid to reduce misinformation and minimize “risks associated with the conflict”

Twitter is also encouraging users in Ukraine to use security features like multi-factor authentication.

The tech company is also asking users to disable their location too.

Other Platforms

On Wednesday, Reddit moderators running the r/Russia subreddit have banned all political and military posts to avoid provocations.

Tech critics are calling YouTube to remove RT, a Russian state-backed network from its platform.


The ongoing invasion of Russia in Ukraine will test social media platform’s policies on disinformation in the time of war

This is a developing story and we’ll update with more information

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