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Anonymous Ukrainian Telegram channels reported on mobilisation in a manipulative way – IMI study

18.01.2024, 10:00
Edit by the IMI
Edit by the IMI

The Telegram news channels in the Ukrainian segment's top-100 spread fakes and report manipulatively on mobilization.

This is evidenced by the study carried out by the Institute of Mass Information.

According to Google Trends, the search requests from Ukrainians related to mobilization in the second year of the full-scale invasion peaked in the second half of December. The surge followed the press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he said that Ukraine needs to prepare 450–500 thousand conscripts.

The IMI experts record that, in December 2023 alone, the "news" first started to surge in the Ukrainian segment's most populat Telegram channels two days before Zelensky's statement. The second peak occurred due to mass quoting of the UAF Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny, who said that the mobilization would be a multi-stage process. The interest in the topic dropped right before the New Year.

The IMI researchers posit that the Telegram channels lack quality analysis of the situation around the mobilization draft bill or coherent comments from qualified experts. Instead, the administrators of such channels overtly manipulate the topic, exploiting the Ukrainians' vulnerability and sensitivity – after all, mobilization will affect almost every family.

The IMI experts also recorded fake news about Ukrainians dying after visiting the TRC (Territorial Recruitment Center), manipulative posts about "packing people into vans" and emotional vocabulary around mobilization. Moreover, propagandists in Russia make use of the information from Telegram.

"Russian propagandists use disinformation by anonymous Ukrainian Telegram channels to smear Ukraine and disrupt the mobilization process. Propagandists monitor the Ukrainian online space and pick out videos where it seems like TRC employees are brutalizing people to promote the narrative that the TRC sends men to their death. Propagandists also advise Ukrainian men to flee abroad or go to prison instead of dying in the war," says IMI researcher Yana Mashkova.

Furthermore, the IMI analysts have repeatedly emphasized that there are several factors that distinguish quality journalism from the level of anonymous Telegram channels. First of those are transparency and accountability. Media outlets that are officially registered, have a physical office, a professional team and an understanding of ethical and journalistic standards, will publish a rebuttal and apologize to the audience in the event of inaccurate or misleading reporting. "While in the anonymous realm of Telegram, as we can see, you can delete, edit or simply ignore outright fakes with one click and bear no responsibility for unreliable or untrue content," the study says.

The IMI recommends following reliable media outlets included in the list of the best and most accountable Ukrainian online media. These media outlets also have a presence on Telegram and offer high-quality, authentic content without violating journalistic standards.

The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) is a public media organization that has been operating since 1995. The IMI defends the rights of journalists, analyzes the media field and covers media-related events, fights propaganda and disinformation and has been providing media outlets with safety gear for trips to the combat zone since the start of the Russo–Ukrainian war in 2014.

The IMI carries out Ukraine's only freedom of speech monitoring and keeps a list of high quality and sustainable online media outlets, documents Russia's crimes against the media committed in the course of the war on Ukraine. The IMI has representatives in 20 oblasts of Ukraine and a network of "Mediabaza" hubs to provide journalists with continuous support. The IMI's partners include Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House; the organization is a member of the International Organization for the Protection of Freedom of Expression (IFEX).

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