March 16, 2022 | Mother Jones

Wartime information campaigns: why we should hold off on declaring a winner in Russia VS Ukraine

ISD analyst Elise Thomas shares some insight with investigative magazine Mother Jones about her research surrounding the ongoing information battle between Russia and Ukraine. Elise acknowledges Ukraine’s relatively successful strategy using it’s own information tactics, but is hesitant to declare the West’s favorite the winner as the internet continues to flood with competing narratives, and populous countries like India and China side with Putin’s version of reality.

“A lot of the people who are saying ‘game over’ are looking just in their own circles,” Elise said. 

Russia is actively grabbing at any opportunity to spin the story e.g. using American right personalities’ commentary, or stories of racist treatment of Ukrainian evacuees. In the US, where far-right, QAnon followers and other conspiratorial groups haven’t taken a clear position, big name personalities like Nick Fuentes, or Tucker Carlson have openly taken on pro-Russian positions, and may be sowing doubt of Ukraine among their following.

Elise shared that she’s “seen accounts that she knows push Russian propaganda lean in to reports of African and Asian students being discriminated against in their attempts to flee Ukraine.”

“It’s would be a classic example of something that is a serious, real issue that Russia is trying to drive a wedge even further into,” she said.

But Ukraine is fighting back with their own information tactics. It’s an interesting ethical question for the field. What do we do when an actor we like is using these tactics?

Elise Thomas is an OSINT Analyst at ISD, with a background in researching state-linked information operations, disinformation, conspiracy theories and the online dynamics of political movements.

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