Abby Ohlheiser at MIT Technology Review: “The fast-paced online coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday followed a pattern that’s become familiar in other recent crises that have unfolded around the world. Photos, videos, and other information are posted and reshared across platforms much faster than they can be verified.
The result is that falsehoods are mistaken for truth and amplified, even by well-intentioned people. This can help bad actors to terrorize innocent civilians or advance disturbing ideologies, causing real harm.
Disinformation has been a prominent and explicit part of the Russian government’s campaign to justify the invasion. Russia falsely claimed that Ukrainian forces in Donbas, a city in the southeastern part of the country that harbors a large number of pro-Russian separatists, were planning violent attacks, engaging in antagonistic shelling, and committing genocide. Fake videos of those nonexistent attacks became part of a domestic propaganda campaign. (The US government, meanwhile, has been working to debunk and “prebunk” these lies.)
Meanwhile, even people who are not part of such government campaigns may intentionally share bad, misleading, or false information about the invasion to promote ideological narratives, or simply to harvest clicks, with little care about the harm they’re causing. In other cases, honest mistakes made amid the fog of war take off and go viral….
Your attention matters …
First, realize that what you do online makes a difference. “People often think that because they’re not influencers, they’re not politicians, they’re not journalists, that what they do [online] doesn’t matter,” Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, told me in 2020. But it does matter. Sharing dubious information with even a small circle of friends and family can lead to its wider dissemination.
… and so do your angry quote tweets and duets.
While an urgent news story is developing, well-meaning people may quote, tweet, share, or duet with a post on social media to challenge and condemn it. Twitter and Facebook have introduced new rules, moderation tactics, and fact-checking provisions to try to combat misinformation. But interacting with misinformation at all risks amplifying the content you’re trying to minimize, because it signals to the platform that you find it interesting. Instead of engaging with a post you know to be wrong, try flagging it for review by the platform where you saw it.
Mike Caulfield, a digital literacy expert, developed a method for evaluating online information that he calls SIFT: “Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, and Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context.” When it comes to news about Ukraine, he says, the emphasis should be on “Stop”—that is, pause before you react to or share what you’re seeing….(More)”.