When Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, most spoke of the engagement as the largest of its kind since World War Two. But the battle for Ukraine has been anything but an old World War. This war is taking the manipulation of information to a whole new level. Scott Thuman has our report.
When Russian airstrikes took out an iconic television tower in Kyiv, it wasn’t exactly the first blow in the information war, both sides have weaponized emotions and information.
For example, the viral social media clip of defiant Ukrainian troops on an island after they were ordered to lay down their weapons by a Russian warship replying:
Ukrainian soldier: “Go f*** yourself"
Their quickly reported deaths made them instant heroes; the fact they survived and were prisoners, did little to lessen the impact.
With Moscow's armies invading his country, Ukrainian president Zelensky is everywhere in military green, the former comedian and actor portrayed as the leader the world wants to see.
Sinan Aral: President Zelensky has been incredibly effective at propagating his narrative using video selfies, using telegram, and so on.
Dr. Sinan Aral is an MIT professor who studies information wars and says Ukraine is running circles around Putin's propagandists.
Aral: The reason the information war is important as part of the story is because it's motivating action in three places. In Ukraine, it is essentially motivating people to stand and fight, it's providing social proof to them that they're not alone and that others are fighting as well and that they're unified.
Generating millions of clicks, citizen-generated media coming out of Ukraine showing brutality on one hand, relatable, tender moments on the other.
With a global crackdown on its social channels, the Russian government is losing the ability to push its message.
Aral: The platforms are more prepared. so the policies of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and so on are much more prepared and proactive than they have been in the past.
Still, for all Ukraine's success in the information war, it may not be enough.
Scott: When it comes to both the information war and the actual war, can you lose one and still win the other?
Aral: I think that Ukraine could win the information war and lose the actual war.
Sharyl (on camera): And so what's happening with the traditional media that's seen in Russia by ordinary people?
Scott (on camera): Well, there's been a big Kremlin crackdown. Two of the last independent broadcasters, one radio, and one TV have been shut down in the last week. Meanwhile, Moscow's own international TV network - RT - has been banned across Europe and they've laid off their staff here in America. For perspective, one Nobel Prize-winning Russian journalist said Putin is shutting down everything that isn't propaganda.