Information war: another front in Ukraine conflict
Straight Talk

Editor's note: The Russia-Ukraine conflict has raged for over two months. In an information age, what is the role of the news media in this conflict? How has the involved parties used the media to make benefits for themselves? Song Xin, a former policy advisor at the European Parliament, gave us some clues during an interview. The views expressed in the video are her own and not necessarily those of CGTN.

This is a war being fought on two fronts. On the one hand, we see the traditional battlefield, and on the other hand, we see the war being shaped in a new arena, the information arena.

With smartphones and social media gaining worldwide popularity, receiving instantaneous information is now commonplace and distinct from the old days when we could only receive such news belatedly from a limited number of centralized channels.

In the meantime, the digital information channels have also facilitated the spread of propaganda and misinformation. Because of the immediacy of the availability of information about the war, propagandists can shape the news streams because the social media platforms, to some extent, lack the ability to distinguish between fake and true information. Therefore, all sides can use these media to push their own narratives and influence public opinion and morale.

The abundance of information related to the war serves as a double-edged sword that facilitates the spread of important updates on the conflict while also accelerating the disinformation. As a result, people tend to get different versions of the war, depending on where they are and what platforms they have access to.

Citizens on the Russian and Western sides may receive different or even opposing narratives about what is happening on the ground. Artificial Intelligence, including big data, has played an increasingly prominent role in shaping individuals’ vision of the war.

Now, if people around the world want to watch the war online as it intensifies, they only need to follow the accounts of people filming on the front line. There were widely spread video clips in which a Russian army unit was forced to retreat in front of some Ukrainian residents holding smartphones filming the scene and live-streaming. This is in stark contrast with previous wars when we could only see photos in the newspapers afterward.

And this new type of war affects soldiers' morale and mentality for the simple reason that they are facing an unknown audience behind each camera and even their tiniest acts are being filmed and will therefore be available for later judgment, both legally and morally.

Apart from the visual excitement, the participatory forms of social media have also enabled users to be involved in information warfare. No matter whether you are an information provider, sharer or just viewer, once you open up your electronic device, you are somehow participating. The data generated by your acts will somehow accelerate the spread of information.

Script editor: Lu Xiaoyi

Video editor: Feng Ran

Producer: Bi Jianlu, Wang Xinyan, Zhang Peijin

Supervisor: Mei Yan

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