March 4 2022, 11:11 am

Social Media Fuels New Type of ‘Fog of War’ in Ukraine Conflict – How to Avoid It

US media is report­ing that amid the war in Ukraine, the mod­ern com­bi­na­tion of smart­phones, social media, and high-speed data links pro­vides images that are faster, more visu­al, and more volu­mi­nous than in any pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary con­flict. This, in turn, has brought new efforts to deceive and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion which makes it dif­fi­cult to estab­lish facts on the ground and fuels a new type of ‘for of war.’ Accord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post report:

Feb­ru­ary 24, 2022 Yet for all the visu­als surg­ing across the Inter­net, Alexan­der is unsure whether they are help­ing most peo­ple under­stand events in far-off bat­tle­fields. The inten­si­ty and imme­di­a­cy of social media are cre­at­ing a new kind of fog oof war, in which infor­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion are con­tin­u­ous­ly entan­gled with each oth­er – clar­i­fy­ing and con­fus­ing in almost equal mea­sure. ‘If you’re a nor­mal per­son, and you go onto social media today, you’ll find it con­fus­ing,” said Alexan­der, 28, a merg­ers and acqui­si­tions ana­lyst for a start-up who for weeks has been spend­ing his spare time ana­lyz­ing Russ­ian videos online for signs of fab­ri­ca­tions. “If you don’t fol­low this in depth, you can be mis­in­formed because there’s so much infor­ma­tion being shot out in all direc­tions.” Alexan­der has become an expert at see­ing the often-sub­tle dif­fer­ences between Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian tanks and weapon­ry. He’s learned to iden­ti­fy key Ukrain­ian land­marks. Most of all, he’s learned to study the lat­est videos of clues to what’s hap­pen­ing on the ground, while ignor­ing the writ­ten or spo­ken com­men­tary he says is often mis­lead­ing. […] But the mod­ern com­bi­na­tion of smart­phones, social media and high-speed data links now are pro­vid­ing images that are almost cer­tain­ly faster, more visu­al and more volu­mi­nous than in any pre­vi­ous major mil­i­tary con­flict. They’ve also brought, experts say, new efforts to deceive, and the new con­flict is unfold­ing along­side an aggres­sive and wide­ly dis­trib­uted cam­paign of dis­in­for­ma­tion that makes it hard for crowd­sourc­ing to estab­lish facts on the ground.

Read the full report here.

The Post report cites a media expert who argues it is cur­rent­ly bet­ter to get infor­ma­tion about Ukraine from cable news rather than social media, giv­en the amount of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da on social media. How­ev­er, the report also points out that social media has also been a valu­able tool to ver­i­fy troop move­ments and that it has helped Ukraini­ans to spread their mes­sages to a glob­al audience.

CNN has recent­ly pub­lished a guide on how to nav­i­gate social media and avoid ampli­fy­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion dur­ing major news events such as the attack on Ukraine., pro­vid­ing the fol­low­ing recommendations:

  •  First and fore­most: Be skep­ti­cal. Be on the look­out for pro­pa­gan­da. Think twice before hit­ting send or share. “If you’re online you are a poten­tial stooge in the infor­ma­tion war,” pro­fes­sor Jen­nifer Mer­cieca commented.
  • David French, a vet­er­an of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom and a senior edi­tor at The Dis­patch, wrote: “View bat­tle­field reports with extreme cau­tion. The fog of war makes it dif­fi­cult for even the com­bat­ants to under­stand what’s hap­pen­ing in real time. As dense as the fog is on the bat­tle­field, it’s almost infi­nite­ly more opaque” on sites like Twitter.
  • Pro­fes­sor and dis­in­for­ma­tion expert Kate Star­bird said on Twit­ter that con­sumers should be “be wary of unfa­mil­iar accounts.” Check their pro­file, Star­bird wrote: “Are they brand new? Or low fol­low­er? What were they tweet­ing a cou­ple of weeks or months ago? Make sure they are who they say they are. If you’re not sure, it’s okay to not retweet.”
  • Chris­ti­aan Triebert of The New York Times’ visu­al inves­ti­ga­tions team rec­om­mend­ed: “Do a reverse image search with Google and Yan­dex.” That’s good advice for images that seem espe­cial­ly strik­ing or sur­pris­ing. “If noth­ing shows up, mir­ror the image,” and try again, he said. Sto­ry­ful’s Rob McDon­agh not­ed that you can do the same with screen­shots of videos…

Read the oth­er rec­om­men­da­tions here.

The term ‘fog of war’ is asso­ci­at­ed with Pruss­ian mil­i­tary ana­lyst Carl von Clause­witz and describes the uncer­tain­ty in sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness expe­ri­enced by par­tic­i­pants in mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. Accord­ing to Clause­witz, ‘war is the realm of uncer­tain­ty; three-quar­ters of the fac­tors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or less­er uncertainty.’


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