Stopping Russia’s disinformation and propaganda machine | #socialmedia

As Russia faces global condemnation for its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has sought to block its people from getting news updates from sources other than local media, and has reportedly blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram..

“Social media censorship stops the free flow of information and hinders people from getting unbiased information about current events,” says privacy protection toolset Surfshark’s information security officer Aleksandr Valentij. “Moreover, having fewer information sources makes people more susceptible to misleading or false news. Disinformation campaigns aim to distract, confuse, manipulate, and sow division, discord, and uncertainty in the community.”

He shares five tips on identifying propaganda, to separate the wheat from the chaff, and safely track important news without falling for fake news.

Firstly, he advises to check for primary sources, as there is a lot of fake information about the war in Ukraine out there. It is often carefully constructed to make it easy to believe, employing photo manipulation techniques, and fact manipulation. “The events depicted or described are difficult to verify or are entirely possible in the nowadays context,”

To defend against misinformation, it is critical to follow and use means of communication that quote official sources. “It may be the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, verified media outlets, or intelligence information.”

Secondly, use reverse image search to check the authenticity of pictures.

By looking at Google’s “visually similar images”, one can see if the picture was first posted now or a few years ago during a different military conflict. “It also allows us to check if the image has been shared on a reputable Web site or was manipulated in any way.”

He says users can also cross-check Google search results against other image searching tools to make sure of their findings.

The metadata shows precise details on how and when the video or image was created, and scrutiny might help reveal whether the news is real or manipulated.

To check metadata, users can download the chosen file and use Adobe Bridge by choosing Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Adobe Bridge > Preferences (macOS), and then select Metadata from the list on the left.

“There are also online metadata viewers, which enable users to check the data using the image’s Web link without any additional software,” Valentij says.

However, he cautions that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter often strip the metadata from photos and videos uploaded to their sites. “In these cases, people can reverse search the image or ask the message’s author for the original file or clarification.”

4. Use fact-checking resources

Valentij says there are a slew of fact-checking resources on the Internet that can help people check whether something is true or not, as experts have taken the time to examine these instances in-depth.

“For example, organisations such as the Australian Associated Press, RMIT/ABC, Agence France-Presse (AFP), and Bellingcat maintain lists of fact-checks their teams have performed for Ukraine’s invasion,” he says.

5. Detect fake news links

In addition, amid the recent surge of propagandist information, Surfshark created a free tool that detects and highlights Web site links from various media and other sites that are known to spread fake news and misinformation.

In ending, Valentij says: “The 21st century has shown that information might be sharper than the sword. Recent events in Ukraine have thrown our world deeper into turmoil and confusion.”

To help combat this, Surfshark is releasing a free feature on its browser extensions (Chrome and Firefox) to help anyone avoid false information on the Internet.

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