Russian disinformation frenzy seeds groundwork for Ukraine invasion

Zachary Basu and Sara Fischer at Axios: “Russia is testing its agility at weaponizing state media to win backing at home, in occupied territories in eastern Ukraine and with sympathizers abroad for a war of aggression.

The big picture: State media has pivoted from accusing the West of hysterical warnings about a non-existent invasion to pumping out minute-by-minute coverage of the tensions.

Zoom in: NewsGuard, a misinformation tech firm, identified three of the most common false narratives being propagated by Russian state media like RT, Sputnik News, and TASS:

  1. The West staged a coup in 2014 to overthrow the Ukrainian government
  2. Ukrainian politics is dominated by Nazi ideology
  3. Ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s Donbas region have been subjected to genocide

Between the lines: Social media platforms have been on high alert for Russian disinformation that would violate their policies but have less control over private messaging, where some propaganda efforts have moved to avoid detection.

  • A Twitter spokesperson notes: “As we do around major global events, our safety and integrity teams are monitoring for potential risks associated with conflicts to protect the health of the platform.”
  • YouTube’s threat analysis group and trust and safety teams have also been closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine. The platform’s policies ban misleading titles, thumbnails or descriptions that trick users into believing the content is something it is not….(More)”.