Tracking Civilian Harms, UNESCO Body Armor, Disinformation Spread, More: Ukraine Update, Afternoon, March 17, 2022


Bellingcat: Hospitals Bombed and Apartments Destroyed: Mapping Incidents of Civilian Harm in Ukraine. “Readers are invited to explore the map by date and location. It must be noted that only incidents that have been pictured, captured on video or posted to social media are included in Bellingcat’s dataset. It is likely that there will be many other instances of civilian harm that are not documented on video or on social media and therefore not included in the TimeMap. Even accounting for that caveat, the number of incidents detailed in our dataset and TimeMap at time of initial publication is already significant.”


New York Times: UNESCO will send body armor to Ukrainian journalists.. “The United Nations’ cultural agency said on Thursday that it was sending body armor and helmets to Ukraine to help protect Ukrainian journalists, many of whom have gone from covering local news to suddenly becoming war correspondents. At least four journalists, including a Ukrainian, have been killed covering the fighting since Russia began its invasion last month.”

Washington Post: Why the Kremlin is still active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. “Western political leaders have hailed decisions by tech companies to suspend or muffle Russian state media such as RT and Sputnik amid the war in Ukraine, and there’s evidence those moves are having an impact. Yet official Kremlin accounts have largely escaped such restrictions, continuing to post freely on Twitter and other U.S.-based social platforms even as their owners rain bombs on Ukrainian cities.”

Reuters: Facebook removes more Russian posts claiming children’s hospital bombing in Ukraine was a hoax. “Russian Embassy accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Telegram had posted that reports of Russia bombing a children’s hospital in Ukraine were a hoax. As a result, Facebook removed these posts, said a company spokesperson.”


Mashable: How a pregnant Ukrainian Instagram influencer was used in a Russian disinformation campaign. “Marianna Vishegirskaya, one of many injured pregnant women at the decimated Mariupol hospital was targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign that tried – and ultimately failed – to flip the blame and attempt to disprove the reality of the deadly attack. Vishegirskaya was likely targeted because she’s a popular internet personality in Ukraine, known as @gixie_beauty on Instagram.”

Scientific American: Russia Is Using ‘Digital Repression’ to Suppress Dissent. “As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on, an information war is raging alongside the physical fighting. Russia’s recent attempts to spread disinformation have not yet found great success in the West. Within the country, however, President Vladimir Putin’s regime is controlling the narrative through censorship, state control of media and other forms of digital repression. This term refers to a variety of practices that use digital tools to stamp out dissent through a combination of actions, both online and offline.”

Washington Post: Computer programmers are taking aim at Russia’s propaganda wall. “Since the days of the Cold War, when U.S.-government-funded stations such as Radio Free Europe broadcast anti-communist messaging across the airwaves of Soviet states, the West has tried, often futilely, to pierce the propaganda bubble that surrounds and isolates the Russian populace. But the Internet has sent those information-war efforts into overdrive, allowing everyday people to pitch in on imaginative efforts designed to reach strangers thousands of miles away.”

Bloomberg: Meta’s Russia Problem Is Up to Nick Clegg, Not Mark Zuckerberg, to Solve. “Shortly after Russian troops invaded his country in February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy sent separate letters to Meta Platforms Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. He wanted them to block Russia’s state-backed media outlets from posting to Facebook in Ukraine; he also asked that they cut off Facebook and Instagram in Russia itself. Neither Zuckerberg nor Sandberg responded. Instead, Zelenskiy heard from Nick Clegg, Britain’s former deputy prime minister, who’s worked the past three years as a high-ranking executive at Meta.”


Washington Post: Russian government websites face ‘unprecedented’ wave of hacking attacks, ministry says. “Russian government websites and state-run media face an ‘unprecedented’ wave of hacking attacks, the government said Thursday, prompting regulators to filter traffic coming from abroad. In a statement, the Ministry of Digital Development and Communications said the attacks were at least twice as powerful as any previous ones. It did not elaborate on what filtering measures had been implemented, but in the past, this has often meant barring Russian government websites to users abroad.”


Daily Beast: How Russian Disinformation Goes From the Kremlin to QAnon to Fox News . “Eto Buziashvili, a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (where we both work), has worked on a team tracking biolab rumors from Russian and Chinese sources for more than two years. She told me that while Russia first used narratives and disinformation related to biolabs to threaten or distract from its own actions, ‘now the narratives are one of main justifications of the invasion.’ She added that Russian military officials have since presented forged documents as additional ‘proof’ of those supposed justifications. Though some experts and news headlines have already declared Russian propaganda efforts surrounding its invasion of Ukraine a flop, those declarations were perhaps premature.”

NPR: Deepfake video of Zelenskyy could be ‘tip of the iceberg’ in info war, experts warn. “The video, which shows a rendering of the Ukrainian president appearing to tell his soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender the fight against Russia, is a so-called deepfake that ran about a minute long. It is not yet clear who created the deepfake, but government officials in Ukraine have been warning for weeks about the possibility of Russia spreading manipulated videos as part of its information warfare. Ukraine’s military intelligence agency released a video this month about how state-sponsored deepfakes could be used to sow panic and confusion.”


MakeUseOf: You Can Now Watch the Ukrainian President’s Comedy Show on Netflix. “Servant of the People is a show that features former actor Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the current Ukrainian president. The show ran locally between 2015 and 2019, with Zelenskyy playing a teacher who, quite ironically, ended up becoming the country’s president. The show ended when Zelenskyy ran for president, and it is believed his popularity in the show helped him get elected.”

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