Social media has become an extremely effective propaganda tool for the spread of information – but also misinformation, and even disinformation. This has certainly been seen in the United States, where the constant chatter on some of the platforms continues to divide us.
Many of those same services are also being used by both sides in the war in Ukraine. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Telegram have allowed average Ukrainians to share images from the front lines in a way that was previously never possible, while the governments in both Moscow and Kyiv have each utilized carefully choreographed clips to win favor.
It could be argued that social media has essentially been weaponized.
What is notable just in the past weeks is that it seems Kyiv continues to show the plight it faces as a nation, while also highlighting the bravery of its forces against Russian aggression – whereas Moscow’s efforts seem more directed toward maintaining support for its “special military” operation with its own people.
Ukraine’s Brave Fighting Men And Women
There have been countless videos appearing on social media taken from the frontlines that showcase the destruction and devastation, but also many that have focused on what Russia has lost rather than gained. From the first weeks of the war, videos were posted of destroyed Russian equipment – and of course the now infamous clip of a Russian armored vehicle being towed away by a Ukrainian farmer using his tractor.
That image became so iconic that it was even commemorated with a postage stamp earlier this year!
“Ukrainian post published a new stamp dedicated to Ukrainian Army. It shows a Ukrainian tractor pulling Russian military equipment and the slogan ‘Good evening, we are from Ukraine.’ Part of the funds from its sales will be donated to the Army,” tweeted Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en), advisor to the office of Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, last month.
This week, Ukraine’s military further highlighted how it has continued to employ captured Russian hardware – including a Tu-80U, considered to be one of the most advanced main battle tanks (MBTs) in service on the frontlines today.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shared a video of the recently captured tank as it hauled away other equipment, tweeting, “Movement in the right direction. A captured russian T-80U tank operated by the Ukrainian servicemen towing a captured russian Msta-B 152 mm howitzer in the Kharkiv region.”
That video has been seen more than 200,000 times since it was posted on Wednesday.
Moscow Shares Red Square Rally
By contrast, Moscow hasn’t been as quick to share images from the frontlines, likely in no small part due to the fact that the war hasn’t actually played out as the Kremlin may have expected. Instead of a quick victory, where its soldiers were greeted as liberators, Russia faced numerous setbacks on the battlefield.
Following Friday’s declaration in Moscow that annexed four regions of Ukraine, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin appeared in a massive rally/concert in Red Square. Videos of the spectacle have been seen hundreds of thousands of times, where crowds were reportedly heard chanting “Russia, Russia, Russia.”
However, such displays were almost certainly meant to win support for the “special military operation” at home, even as tens of thousands of Russian citizens of conscription age have attempted to flee the country after Putin announced that some 300,000 reservists could be called up for service.
This is not the first time Putin has held such a rally in the shadow of the Kremlin walls to drum up support for the war in Ukraine. Such events have been compared to rallies held by the Nazis and other fascist regimes – and many continue to question whether the support is authentic.
Does The World Believe?
Kyiv has already condemned the “referendums” that Moscow held in the four Ukrainian regions as unrepresentative and a sham, and said they will not give up their efforts to drive Russia out of the territory it has seized.
In addition, many western governments also dispute the legitimacy of the referendum – as images also circulated this past week of voters forced to cast ballots at gunpoint. Such images certainly weren’t broadcast on Russian state TV or shared on official social media platforms.
Clearly, two different versions of the same war are now being played out – but social media has allowed both to be seen, allowing those around to world with access to get a full picture.