'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.
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.
Carole Cadwalladr is one of the great investigative journalists. If you don't already know her work on Russia's information war, you should. This infowar underpins the hot war we are now seeing in Ukraine. https://t.co/dcefOShYKV— Lucy Bailey (@LABailey) February 28, 2022
"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."
Putin's great strength for the last decade has been fighting an information war that others did not understand or know how to fight. He has met his match in Zelenskiy. Brave and clever. These are images we will never forget 🇺🇦 https://t.co/qcTInZl0gH— Tim Shipman (@ShippersUnbound) February 26, 2022
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.
A postscript. Yesterday, Fiona Hill, a national security advisor on Russia to multiple presidents said, unequivocally, the same thing. Except she calls it World War III.— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) March 1, 2022
‘We’re already in it. We have been for some time.’https://t.co/pY4jhZ7A5Z pic.twitter.com/pnBI5O2iil
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."
The story of Arron Banks is intertwined with every single element of the above. That's for another time. What matters now is Ukraine. And the key to helping it is to understand that Putin isn't just coming for us next. He already has. https://t.co/dMmuvUqjqH— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022
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."
And it wasn't just Russia. Companies such as Cambridge Analytica. Political operatives such as Manafort. Amoral opportunists such as Cummings. They learned how to exploit a platform that was totally open - anyone could do so. And totally closed - no-one could see how.— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022
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.
But also it *was* Russia. That's what the Mueller Report proves. And, again, Ukraine is at centre of it all.(Read @profshaw's thread here. Note walk-on role for Arron Banks's business partner & his friend the Russian spy)— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022
"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.
We fell for it. We said it was "just ads" that "don't work anyhow". And "a bot didn't tell me to vote". Facebook is still an open threat surface. Exploited by authoritarians from Philippines to India to Brazil to Hungary. It's maybe not a world war. But the world is at war.— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022
"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."
(Not that it mattered.) The US media & therefore public failed to understand the real lessons of Mueller Report. And in the UK? We didn't even bother trying. We allowed Johnson's govt to sweep 2016 under the carpet. Nigel Farage. Arron Banks. Facebook. Russia. The lot.— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022
If it helps, the penny dropped for me with Skripal. Planned by the GRU - Russia's military intelligence. As was the weaponised hack-&-leak of Hillary's emails. Military doctrine carried out by military officials in military operations. Just like the one now in Ukraine.— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022