Social media platforms can’t keep up with misinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Misinformation is a huge problem for social media platforms including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and Twitter. The situation worsened with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Social media conversations are now loaded with fabricated information, including recycled videos.
TikTok has become popular in recent years and has increasingly become a leading platform for misinformation shared on the app.
There are so many edited videos on TikTok and its algorithm which aims to make the videos quickly go viral and it is harder to demystify them with the same speed.
A popular video (over 20 million views) is of a guy skydiving and the top comment was “my brother 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 past conflicts made to look like what is happening in Ukraine.
TikTok’s popular feature – the ability to reuse audio from other videos is used to amplify these videos using audio from explosions and gunfire.
TikTok removed these sounds from videos.
The same algorithm piles these fake videos on the page for you users with even more old and unrelated footage, increasing user anxiety and fear.
Bad actors also take advantage of TikTok live streams to fraudulent users after anti-war protests with doctored images and recycled content, then asking for monetary donations.
People are now following stories that document the war in Ukraine. These accounts are not run by journalists and post unverified videos and profit from the conflict by running sponsored ads included in the middle of carousel posts.
These pages cannot even delete posts that have been debunked.
These accounts are rapidly increasing their followers which, to average users, seem trustworthy.
“War is just another thing these meme accounts can monetize”
“People see an account like this and imagine that because it has hundreds of thousands of followers, it’s a legitimate account,” noted Joan Donovan, research director at the Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy.
Instagram has since deleted a number of these war-monetizing meme accounts.
Instagram also removed @PlantATreeCo’s fundraiser in Ukraine. In the past, the account said it was going to plant a tree for every subscriber and for every story repost, a hundred trees. It didn’t do any of that.
Many of these war accounts continue to gain followers and engagement, as the Ukrainian attack is a very hot topic on the app.
Facebook is also seeing people posting gameplay videos on its gaming platform that mislead users into thinking it’s Ukrainian footage.
These videos are going viral with thousands of views and shares on the app.
Some of these videos were taken down with Facebook adding that they have established a special operations center to respond in real time.
Meta via Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Facebook also share that they ban Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on their platform anywhere in the world. Facebook also applies labels to other Russian state media.
The popular messaging platform has also seen its fair share of misinformation posted on the platform.
There have been fictitious messages shared on Telegram that say the CIA spent years training pro-Nazi groups for terrorist practices in Ukraine. Other posts seen by Bloomberg encourage receipts to surrender and not oppose possible Russian troop movements in eastern Ukraine with comments full of graphic imagery.
“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. Bloomberg.
Bad actors on Twitter have also shared conspiracy theories and reposted old footage from previous conflicts.
“Some of the things they did [in the past] like labeling, or some of the ‘think before you share’ interventions, have not been applied to this particular crisis,” noted Nina Jankowicz, Wilson Center Global Fellow specializing in disinformation and democracy.
Twitter also temporarily suspended ads and its recommendations in Russia and Ukraine in an effort to reduce misinformation and minimize “risks associated with the conflict”.
Twitter also encourages Ukrainian users to use security features like multi-factor authentication.
The tech company is also asking users to turn off their location.
On Wednesday, Reddit moderators who run the r/Russia subreddit banned all political and military posts to avoid provocations.
Tech critics are calling on YouTube to remove RT, a Russian state-backed network, from its platform.
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine will test social media platform’s policies on wartime disinformation
This is a developing story and we will update with more information.
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