Misinformation capitalizes on lack of knowledge and justifies actions – expert

Disinformation is a ‘weapon of those who don’t want to build free nations’, says journalist and disinformation expert Jane Lytvynenko

Ukrainian-born investigative journalist and disinformation expert Jane Lytvynenko, in an interview with Maria Ressa last Friday, February 25, highlighted a key point about how disinformation works – it capitalizes on the public’s lack of knowledge.

Misinformation is insidious and will seep into the cracks where there are no solid facts and in doing so will compromise the integrity of truth and established knowledge.

Lytvynenko said this is happening now with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pointing out that the current conflict has been going on for eight years since 2014. As the world pays attention to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine the same year in 2014, the conflict has largely faded for the vast majority of the international community, giving way to pro- Kremlin to infiltrate and attempt to take control of the narrative. Where historical knowledge fades, misinformation can take over and reshape the facts.

“[The international community] have unlearned what they learned in 2014. And the lack of knowledge means that Russia has a great opportunity to spread the narrative that is most beneficial to them,” Lytvynenko said. The misinformation narrative now supporting Russia is that Ukraine and NATO are threatening Russia, that Ukraine is perpetuating chemical attacks, or that Russia needs protection from Ukraine, which is not not real according to Lytvynenko.

This misinformation can justify actions, including invasions. Lytvynenko explained how Putin himself, in his speeches, distorts the history of Ukraine, or how social networks can be used to distort what is happening on the front lines, often giving the impression that attacks are more successful than they are.

The misrepresentation can range from false flag videos or videos that allegedly show an aggressive act while blaming another party, or videos of attacks that have been taken out of context.

“Once [the pieces of content] were dissected, [it showed that they] clearly came from the Russian side of the frontline,” Lytvynenko noted.

“So the justification for this war, as was the justification for the annexation of Crimea, and the occupation of those territories in the first place came from disinformation stories. And the hard part of disinformation during the war is that every attack and every action has a different disinformation narrative behind it. This means that if Russian troops take over an airport, the Russian side is proactively trying to make it look like they got a lot more successful than they actually are. And this is happening with attacks all over Ukraine. Ukraine is a very big country by European standards, and that causes a lot of confusion,” Lytvynenko explained.

For Lytvynenko, social media companies, on which these misinformation narratives continue to exist, have a lot of work to do: “They could have adjusted their approach to how they govern the information environment, and prevented or at least make the disinformation less severe”. attacks that we have seen all over the world.

“To this day, I can’t think of a single country to point to on the map that hasn’t addressed the issue of misinformation. Not one. And this issue fuels the divisions within society that make our conversations seem irreconcilable but also foster violence, foster evil, and sometimes facilitate death.

Lytvynenko also said that one thing that could help is for social media platforms to provide “broad access to data on these platforms to academics, journalists, researchers and civil society around the world, not just around the world. English speaking but everywhere”. pointing out how Facebook had previously shut down access to data, which made it more difficult to investigate what is happening on these platforms.

Disinformation is “a weapon of those who don’t want to build free nations,” Lytvynenko concluded, also saying it’s democracy that Russian President Vladimir Putin really doesn’t want. – Rappler.com

Donald E. Patel