Humour is crucial weapon in Ukraine’s online war, says media specialist

A media specialist said Ukrainians use humor as a “vital tool” in the online war against Russian propaganda and disinformation on social media.

Aleria Kovtun, 25, head of Filter, a Ukrainian government-backed project launched in 2021 to promote media literacy, said there has been a shift in online content produced since Russian troops first invaded in February.

Ms Kovtun said more Ukrainian civilians and soldiers are turning to social media to share videos and memes related to the ongoing conflict in a more positive light through dance routines, survival tips and satirical responses to political situations.

Ms Kovtun told the PA news agency: “I think humor has become a tool in this information war, something we haven’t seen in the first few months.

“Ukrainians are very good at making memes and making them viral because they know how to appeal to emotions.

“I think humor helps keep the spirit up and of course when you go viral on social media a defiant message can spread very quickly.”


Valeria Kovtun is the leader of the national media literacy project Filter (PA)

Satirical accounts on social networking platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tiktok are becoming increasingly popular among Ukrainian social media users and their western allies.

An example of this is the Ukrainian Memes Forces, @uamemesforces on Twitter, which has more than 330,000 followers and regularly posts satirical replies and memes about news from Ukraine.

Posts from the account use various viral images such as: B. References to the US cartoon The Simpsons combined with lyrics mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military.

A statement on the group’s Patreon reads, “The great thing about memes is that they can explain complex issues and break the ice between strangers around the world.

“Our goal is to use memes to convey the truth about what is happening in Ukraine now.”

Ms Kovtun, a Ukrainian national currently based in London, studied at the London School of Economics but was living in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv before the outbreak of war in February.


Firefighters at work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine (Roman Hrytsyna/AP)

Last month, she traveled back to Kyiv and witnessed Russian airstrikes on the capital, during which she observed a “marked shift” in the response to the bombings by civilians in the city.

“In the first few months, Ukrainians were afraid of everything, they were lost and didn’t know how to react,” said Ms. Kovtun.

“I saw it myself in Kyiv in October that the Ukrainians seemed much calmer and knew what to do and where to go in the event of rocket attacks.

“There is a clear shift in the reactions of Ukrainians and at the same time there is a clear shift in the way Ukraine positions itself towards the world.

“Rather than being a country that needs saving, they are positioning themselves as a country that knows it’s going to win but needs a little support from the world to do so.”


Russian invasion of Ukraine (PA Graphics)

It comes as Ukrainian troops prepare to retake the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, which is the only provincial capital Russia had captured during its nearly nine-month invasion.

On Friday, videos and photos began circulating on social media that appeared to show villagers embracing Ukrainian troops and a Ukrainian flag flying above a monument in a central square in Moscow for the first time since the city was captured by the Russians Kherson blows.

Part of Ms Kovtun’s fight against disinformation includes examining the masses of photos and videos uploaded and shared online every day, as many have been proven to be manipulated or spread false information.

She said it is important that Ukrainians learn the tactics and have the tools to check facts online.

Ms Kovtun said: “When you are in a war zone, your safety and security depends on your ability to filter information.

“If you are not media literate you can put yourself or your family at risk, especially at this active stage of the war.

“For example, they once tried to sow disbelief in the Ukrainian political leadership by creating deep fabrications of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging people to lay down their arms.”

When you are in a war zone, your safety and protection depends on your ability to filter information. If you are not media literate you can put yourself or your family at risk, especially during this active phase of the warValeria Kovtun, filters

This week, Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk was criticized for introducing an option – now reversed – for users to pay a £6.99 a month subscription fee for a blue verification badge once only available to high profile users was standing.

Experts warned the move could help spread misinformation and fraud after a wave of fake accounts began using the blue tick to impersonate powerful figures, including world leaders, government departments and even Mr Musk.

Ms Kovtun said that social networking sites cannot always be expected to enforce regulations and that the responsibility should lie with individuals to educate themselves on media literacy in order not to be caught out in spreading emotionally armed fake news.

“When we talk about freedom of expression and disinformation, we should always keep in mind that misinformation always fuels emotions,” Ms Kovtun said.

“Emotions make posts or tweets more viral and that means the algorithm picks them up quickly because by default people respond more to emotional tweets than to a balanced message.

“By developing our media literacy and understanding of disinformation tactics, we can deal with it more rationally.” Humour is crucial weapon in Ukraine’s online war, says media specialist

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