Ukraine is not just suffering a military invasion from Russia. As part of the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare, Ukraine is a target of propaganda and disinformation spread by the Kremlin and other pro-Russian groups. This is yet another example of the threat that Russian disinformation poses to Ukrainian society, European states and the world.
Much of this falsehood is spread via Telegram, a crucial social media networks for Ukrainians and Russians following news about the war. It is, therefore, a fit platform to conduct influence campaigns. This is especially prominent in public-facing channels in the Russian Federation and so-called 'Ukrainian channels' - pro-Russian resources that mimic independent Ukrainian media and create content specifically for the Ukrainian public.
With support from Democracy Reporting International, the German Federal Foreign Office and the Eastern Partnership Programme, VoxCheck Ukraine monitored Russian and pro-Russian Telegram channels between 24 February and 15 November 2022. In the various messages and narratives, VoxCheck found 5,576 instances of disinformation (3,981 in Russian and 1,565 in pro-Russian channels). In particular, the 19 narratives -coordinated in all likelihood by a single centre- most frequently concern:
- Nazism in Ukraine
- Russia's aggression is justified.
- Discrediting or ridiculing representatives of the Ukrainian authorities
Read the full report on the Vox Ukraine below.
Recommendations to policymakers
We recommend that policymakers pay attention to direct evidence of disinformation campaigns in Telegram channels and consider the possibility of introducing measures to control the platform, which provides unlimited functionality for disseminating any information without reporting the source or authorship.
Journalists and other specialists in the media sphere are recommended to familiarize themselves with the main narratives promoted by Russian information influence campaigns in order to learn how to distinguish them and not give them additional distribution. And also, pay attention to the fact that the sources of propaganda can be channels that do not have a directly proven connection with the structures of the Russian state media, and therefore it is necessary to pay more attention to the research of the authors of the channels.
We recommend that fact-checkers of various countries focus their efforts on monitoring Telegram channels in order to identify the sources of disinformation and the resources that Russia uses to shape public opinion in as many countries as possible since the study of pro-Russian Telegram channels in Ukraine shows that this may be involved an extensive system of sources directly or indirectly connected to the Kremlin.