Navigating Social Media In Wartime – Is The Truth Still The First Casualty Of War?

Social War

Social media has proved to be an essential channel for the spread of information in Ukraine since Russia launched its unprovoked attack last week. The various social platforms have even remained a communication lifeline for individuals on the ground, allowing them to remain in contact with the rest of the world.

Yet, at the same time, there has been no shortage of misinformation posted from the warzone. Navigating social media in wartime has proven even more challenging than normal.

“Social media can be both a good and bad thing in times of crisis, especially like the one happening in Ukraine. It can be a productive place to start political and activist organizing efforts and to report needs to the outside world,” explained Julianna Kirschner, lecturer for the Master of Communication Management program at the University of Southern California.

“However, misinformation and disinformation run rampant, and it can be difficult to determine what is true and what is false. For example, the communication between those on Snake Island and the Russian warship went viral near the start of the crisis,” Kirschner explained via an email. “The initial reports circulated on social media said those on Snake Island were killed. However, they were later revealed to have been captured after running out of ammunition. Social media played a role in distributing confusing reports, which makes the average user perplexed as to what is truly happening in Ukraine.”

Communication is essentially about trust.

“That is true in both personal communication and organizational communication. Misinformation ultimately erodes trust while ‘verifiable’ truth builds trust. Especially in times of stress and crisis, communication and trust are essential,” added John Born, visiting assistant professor and executive in residence at the Ohio University Master of Public Administration program.

There is no denying that social media has a trust problem. Born thus suggested that users focus on what they can control.

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Credit: Forbes, Peter Suciu