With Russia spreading propaganda and Ukraine appealing to social- media platforms to ban its usage in the Russian state, the spread of misinformation has increased rampantly. Twitter as a platform has been used by politicians, celebrities and companies to call- out Russia and users have urged the abandonment of Twitter’s operations and services in the region. Twitter allows viewers to express their thoughts freely on the platform with hashtags promoting people to join the pro-Ukraine movement. With Twitter, the information is widespread and quick.
However, the Russia- Ukraine war is not the first one which has gained an international audience. Local uprisings during the Arab Spring of 2010, notably in Egypt and Tunisia, were one of the first international issues involving rampant use of social media. After that, the Russia-Ukraine war of 2022 is the major global event to receive international attention and quick- action.
The role of social media is to majorly promote prompt actions from the concerned authorities in lieu of humanitarian rights. But the plethora of information available on the Internet has made it difficult to sort the reel and real, while posing a challenge in finding the truth.
Ocean of flowing information
An examination of 950,000 Twitter tweets revealed a multitude of contradictory claims online, sparking a controversy about the truth of the situation in Russia-Ukraine. Official accounts of Russia, Ukraine and certain ministers who posted information have generated several threads on Twitter which have raised heated debates amongst the Netizens.
Several threads on twitter involving war descriptions and conspiracy theories have become popular. One of the Russian Ministers claimed that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was “horrific, but not irrational.” All these threads budded the discussion for Russia’s nuclear- attack on Ukraine. None of the information on twitter has been fact- checked or removed after even noting its inaccuracy. This reveals a policy flaw in Twitter, specifically during war time where access to misinformation and conspiracy theories is not just easy but also amplified. Twitter must create policies more suitable for war zones to reduce it’s negative impact in the region.
A senior researcher at Daily Beast, Adam Rawnsley found a rumor which got high attention – one regarding biolabs being created in Ukraine by the United States. This misinformation was engaging and once people interacted with this, Twitter became an echo chamber sharing the same misinformation with the user rampantly. For users, this accumulation of misinformation made them believe in ‘false truths’.
It has been confirmed by Mark Jack Owens that he found 20k Twitter interactions and 17k unique accounts in the biolabs conspiracy theories.
The social media platforms have given rise to the ‘digital war’ making it the most watched among youth. The social- media war raises so many controversies, heated debates and doubts in the minds of people across the world. Twitter has however prompted international institutions to quickly react to the war however it has not stopped the rumors from spreading on a global level. Both reel and real war are now a serious affair.
The 31-year-old Cabinet minister has compiled day- to- day war activities on his feed while constantly criticizing the Russians for invasion. He marks the days in chronological order from his secret underground space in Kyiv. The minister is confronting Russia on digital platforms and even urging citizens to stay aware of Russian actions. He wrote a letter to all big- tech giants to suspend their services in Russia and requested to help Ukrainian citizens as much as possible. The support he has been able to garner from across the world is noteworthy. Moreover, his ability to mobilize information and use Twitter as a platform for the betterment of Ukrainians has shown us the positive side of accessibility to social media during war time. The Mykhailo Fedorov case also reveals the importance of certain key accounts of ministers and government officials during war times, which should be highlighted and boosted on Twitter more than other accounts.
More than anything else, the rampant sharing of triggering content by other citizens on social media should be reduced to ensure Twitter is able to share information that is likely able to help humanitarian efforts rather than trigger social media users making them shut down.
Twitter must go through their hashtag checks and look for possible misinformation spreading on their platform, thereby reducing anxiety of people about the war. All the accounts with fake news must be suspended or banned. Twitter must urge people to follow community guidelines using better policies. Only certain people must be allowed to participate in Twitter threads of government officials, thereby allowing the spread of correct information to the masses. As it may moderate the instigation for violence. Twitter must make efforts to take down wrong information and run fact- checking on its posts, specifically in war zones. Misinformation in these war zones can have serious negative consequences on decisions made during war. Even global perceptions about the war are created by social media platforms like Twitter, which impact global UN level decision making during war times. Hence, Twitter should ensure it is a platform for truth during war times.