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Journalist explains the 'Great Information War' to show how the Ukraine invasion affects everyone

'The first Great Information War began in 2014. The invasion of Ukraine is the latest front. And the idea it doesn't already involve us is fiction, a lie,' British investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr tweeted.

Journalist explains the 'Great Information War' to show how the Ukraine invasion affects everyone
Cover Image Source: Twitter/Carole Cadwalladr

British investigative journalist and author Carole Cadwalladr, who rose to international prominence in 2018 when she exposed the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, recently published an eye-opening Twitter thread about what she calls the first Great Information War. Through the now-viral thread, Cadwalladr explains how Russia's military assault on Ukraine is much more than a regional conflict. "Ok. Deep breath. I think we may look back on this as the first Great Information War. Except we're already 8 years in. The first Great Information War began in 2014. The invasion of Ukraine is the latest front. And the idea it doesn't already involve us is fiction, a lie," she tweeted.


"It was Putin's fury at the removal of President Yanukovych in Feb 2014 that kicked everything off. Information operations were the first crucial step in the invasion of Crimea and Donbas. A deliberate attempt to warp reality to confuse both Ukrainians and the world," Cadwalladr continued. "This was not new. The Soviets had practiced 'dezinformatsiya' for years. But what was new in 2014 was technology. Social media. It was a transformative moment. 'Hybrid warfare' on steroids: a golden Willy Wonka ticket to manipulate hearts & minds. Almost completely invisibly."


Speaking to the Lithuanian National Television and Radio, Inga Zakšauskienė—a Cold War historian and disinformation scholar—confirmed what Cadwalladr wrote in the Twitter thread, that these practices have been evolving for a long time. "There have always been attempts to manipulate history and facts, but today it is much easier to do so. During the Cold War period, it was very expensive to organize disinformation campaigns. […] What is new today is the very swift dissemination of messages and the low cost of producing and distributing them," Zakšauskienė said.


Justin Pelletier, Professor of Practice of Computing Security at the Rochester Institute of Technology, corroborated the same in an article published by The Conversation this week. "Russia has one of the most capable and technological militaries on the planet," Pelletier wrote. "They have advanced intelligence, information warfare, cyber warfare, and electronic warfare capabilities. Russia has used these technologies in recent years in combat in Syria and the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine and is using them in its current invasion of Ukraine."


According to Pelletier, "Information warfare is the battle waged in the news media and on social media to bolster popular support; persuade and induce the sympathy of potential allies; and simultaneously spread confusion, uncertainty, and distrust in the enemy's population." He explained that "Russia has used and is likely to continue to use cyber operations to subvert the Ukrainian government. For example, in the weeks leading up to both the 2014 and 2022 invasions, Ukrainian soldiers were targeted with disinformation designed to sow confusion and disorder in the event of an attack." He believes Russian messaging about "liberating" portions of Ukraine is disinformation most likely aimed at an international audience and that "there is an ongoing contest to control the narrative about what is happening in Ukraine."


This is where Cadwalladr's Twitter thread hits home. "It wasn't just Ukraine. We now know Russia began another offensive in Feb 2014. Against the West. Specifically, but not exclusively, America. How do we know this? Because the FBI conducted a forensic, multi-year investigation. That almost no one paid any attention to. The Mueller Report. You've heard of it. But probably as a headline about how it didn't 'prove' collusion between the Kremlin & Trump campaign. What it did prove—BEYOND ANY DOUBT—was that Russia attacked 2016 US election through multiple routes," she tweeted.


"In 2016, we knew none of this. Russia and other bad actors acted with impunity and, in some cases alignment. But now, through the sheer bloody hard work of academics, journalists & FBI, we do know. But it was complex, messy, difficult. So... We brushed it all under the carpet. We failed to acknowledge Russia had staged a military attack on the West. We called it 'meddling,' We used words like 'interference.' It wasn't. It was warfare. We've been under military attack for eight years now," Cadwalladr wrote. 


"It wasn't 'just ads'. It was war. And it's absolutely crucial that we now understand that Putin's attack on Ukraine and the West was a JOINT attack on both. That began at the exact same time. Across the exact same platforms. And this new front, the invasion of Ukraine, is not just about Ukraine. We are part of the plan. We have always been part of the plan. And Ukraine is not just fighting for Ukraine but for the rest of us too," she stated. "And maybe that could be why we've failed to understand Putin's strategy in Ukraine? Because it's not just a strategy in Ukraine. It's directed at us too. And that's what makes this such a uniquely perilous moment. Not least, because we still don't understand we're at war."



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