One of the main ways everyone can help is by fighting the barrage of misinformation flooding the internet.
As British investigative journalist, Carole Cadwalladr, so brilliantly explained in an eye-opening Twitter thread this week, the ongoing Russian onslaught on Ukraine didn't just begin last week when President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" on the country. "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 tweeted. "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."
Ok. Deep breath.— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) February 27, 2022
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.
This barrage of disinformation spewing into the internet has only gotten worse since Russia began raining missiles down on its neighbor. While the current situation has left many of us at home feeling helpless and hopeless, we can help by fighting this torrent of lies by learning to recognize what's true and what isn't and helping spread verified information. "The most evidence-based intervention for misinformation is 'inoculation' or 'pre-bunking' that beats misinformation to the punch. In other words, rather than only trying to cut misinformation off at its source, there's a need to warn people about the misinformation that's out there, ideally before they ever see it," Joseph M. Pierre, a professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told Bored Panda.
SCOOP: Google is removing user-generated content from its maps of Russia, Ukraine, + Belarus," and is temporarily blocking new edits. Changes follow questions from @richardjnieva and I about claims that Google Maps were being used to coordinate airstrikeshttps://t.co/CPebzdLPhP— sarah emerson (@SarahNEmerson) March 2, 2022
Dr. Pierre explained that the "holy trinity of truth detection" is made up of three pillars: intellectual humility, cognitive flexibility and analytical thinking. These three pillars, according to the professor, help balance out the human tendency to disbelieve the things that we don't want to believe. "Intellectual humility is about acknowledging that we can always be wrong and that all of our beliefs should be thought of as probability judgments, not absolutes," he explained. "Cognitive flexibility means being able to take on other points of view and if not necessarily believing different perspectives, then at least being able to understand where they’re coming from."
"Analytical thinking is really about slowing down and thinking skeptically before accepting information that represents what we want to believe at face value. Thanks to confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, we're great at disbelieving the things we don't want to believe—analytical thinking means also considering that we should disbelieve the things that we do want to believe or that confirm our preexisting beliefs and intuitions," Dr. Pierre added. One way to practice our analytical thinking, he said, is "by slowing down, being skeptical, and verifying before we click, share, or re-tweet."
Wow, interesting tip circulating on how to fight the state media propaganda inside Russia. Go to Google Maps, find a restaurant in a Russian city, & leave a review explaining what is really happening. I just looked up a few restaurants in Moscow and yes, people are doing this! pic.twitter.com/EelTRT57w9— Vlada Knowlton 🇺🇦 (@VladaKnowlton) March 1, 2022
Recognizing that a lot of people living in Russia are only consuming what the heavily curated and biased local and national media want them to hear, many people have come up with unusual ways to get the truth across. Twitter user Vlada Knowlton shared one in a recent tweet that reads: "Wow, interesting tip circulating on how to fight the state media propaganda inside Russia. Go to Google Maps, find a restaurant in a Russian city and leave a review explaining what is really happening. I just looked up a few restaurants in Moscow and yes, people are doing this!"
My recent post on a little coffee shop in Moscow pic.twitter.com/b1Y0kxygTk— Richard 🇪🇺🇬🇧🇺🇦 (@battenbergs) March 1, 2022
Meanwhile, some women are using dating apps to spread important information about the war in Ukraine to those in Russia. "Calling all the single ladies of Europe! Of course, there has been amazing resistance, courage and strength shown by the Ukrainians in this terrible war against their invaders. Donations from people are incredible, but what other actions can you personally make from wherever you are around the world? Right now, people are going on Google maps and reviewing Russian restaurants/businesses and writing reviews on what is happening in Ukraine. We also need to remember, that unfortunately, not everyone in Russia is aware of the actual facts. We live in a world of propaganda, so let's help humanity by spreading the truth. So with this in mind, let's use our beautiful dating app profiles in an informative way too! Help spread the facts and educate the Russian people of the current atrocities in Ukraine," wrote Instagram user Agnė Kulitaitė.
Some people are also booking Airbnbs in Ukraine in order to get money directly into the hands of Ukrainians:
HOW TO HELP - just booked a Kiev AirBnb for 1 week, simply as a means of getting money directly into the hands of Kiev residents. It's really cheap and can make a small difference right now. Please share this idea #Ukraine #Russia #StopWarInUkraine #StopPutinNOW #UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/7yQDLYRkph— DiMaggio.eth (@DimaggioEth) March 3, 2022
Just made a booking - great idea. Just got this message back from the host.. pic.twitter.com/bL6W3KS1an— John Mitchell (@seagullsmitch) March 3, 2022