Posted: 3 months ago

How Ukraine Uses Effective Communication to Win the Information War

"Hybrid war" - this is the form of conflict in which the opposing parties, through military force, economic leverage, effective communication, or other means gain an advantage.

This time, we will talk about effective communication - the information war that is going on intensively around the world in parallel with the conventional confrontation in Ukraine. Anyone who willingly or unwillingly disseminates this or that information can become a participant in the information war. When talking about the Russia-Ukraine war, they often mention the effective dissemination of information by Ukraine through various communication channels. Among them, the social space of Telegram and TikTok is distinguished, from where the news about the course of the war is spread in detail and operatively. "This is the First World Information War" - this is how Soso Galumashvili, the founder of the communication agency "Gepra", assesses the events and talks about the information war at Marketer. 

M: What do we mean when we say that Ukraine was very well prepared for the information war?

First of all, the channels where the so-called information war had to be waged, were chosen correctly. This "territory" turned out to be mainly Telegram. Why Telegram? Because this is a space that has not allowed the Russian government to use its own platform to arrest people. That is why it has become one of the most popular apps in Russia, where a number of Russian-language media outlets have settled. It was this area that the Ukrainians occupied and, with proper pagan communication, were able to open a "resistance front" on all the leading Telegram channels.

Naturally, the Ukrainian side alone would not be able to deal with the Russian troll factory. Therefore, a large volunteer network was created for the people who joined this "resistance front". Today, a ruthless war is unleashed on the Telegram, which the Ukrainian side is winning, of course, with the help of partners. It should also be noted that this is not just my analysis (although it coincides with my wishes).

M: On what basis can we think that Russia is losing the information war?

The information war is only part of hybrid warfare. One of the components of hybrid war is economic sanctions. Here, too, there is a specific rate of victory over Russia. All this (and not only) makes me think that today, for the first time in the 21st century, Russia has been bitterly defeated in an information war.

"We have lost the information war," said Vladimir Solovyob, one of the most outspoken supporters of Russian ideology. He made it very clear: "We have completely lost the information war. We appear nowhere. It is better to let go of all this, to look after the economy, to go back inside so that the charge of discontent in Russia does not increase. Unlike in previous years, when Russia won the information war with a great advantage, today, the situation has changed significantly. So much so that even one of Russia’s most influential propagandists admits defeat.''

The same is said by his teammate and Soviet director Karen Shakhnazarov. It is also interesting that despite the ban on the word "war", the word was mentioned several times in a recent program. In addition, a video of a conversation between him and a military expert from Solovyov's broadcast was spread in the Telegram. This is an incredible precedent because such shows and media are thoroughly filtered. In general, the position "we no longer know what to do" emerges from them…

M: In your estimation, how did Ukraine prepare for the information war?

First of all, let's start with the fact that with the help of the US, the right information policy has been established. This became the basis of the organization we witnessed. They understood very well the power of an army of trolls who were active not only in war but also in peacetime. For example, we can cite intense attacks during the US elections, for which Congress has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate. Also, the interference of trolls in the elections in Bulgaria and Belarus. This experience dictated a complete change in US cybersecurity policy.

Ukraine, on the other hand, has prepared diligently and ended up with the right cyber security and the right information war. On the one hand, he set up the messaging system vertically - the usual cyber soldier of the Ukrainian front to receive and distribute the correct message box.

Third, the information was disseminated correctly horizontally as well. What does this mean? In the same service - for example, in the presidential administration, in the parliament - there was almost no difference of opinion.

Fourth, the war will not end until the commander-in-chief says so. This also applies to the information space. That is, the information war does not end until the commander-in-chief announces it. The Ukrainians continue the war daily, diligently, do not relax, and act consistently. This turned out to be a very important factor.

Also, there is the language factor, which is not a barrier for Ukrainians. In our case, the language barrier hindered us in the 2008 war. International partners will help Ukraine in terms of foreign language communication. We see that the information war is not only in Ukrainian and Russian and is spread in English, German, Spanish. Unlike conventional warfare, in this case, information warfare took on a global face, from New Zealand to the Arctic Islands. Therefore, I can say - this is the first world war in the information space.

Unfortunately, Georgian society has become immature in digital terms. This is very evident in the viral spread of xenophobic statements, excessive sugar purchases, the spread of false information, the download of applications created by the Russian special services (despite the emergency warning).

M: What do you mean by digital immaturity?

Digital immaturity means that a person cannot set apart a true story from a fake one. Second - posting without thinking. As Obama once said - think before you post. And third - immaturity is also manifested in the uncompromising defense of one's position when a person realizes his own mistake but remains in the opinion until the end. I call this digital infantilism.

It was this digital infantilism that misled us, and when the U.S. was actively talking about Russia's plan to invade Ukraine, we thought everything was fine and the alarm was unfounded.

M: What can we learn from this, in terms of communication?

Of course, we have to master what I talked about in the section on preparing for the Ukraine information war. We must learn to choose the right communication channels. For example, when you create an NFT, you know you have to switch to Discord groups because most of the activity takes place there. In this information war, we have seen that Telegram has become the main area where "combat operations" take place.

Also, all citizens should be able to distinguish between false and true news so as not to become the object of panic. Think carefully before posting anything on a social network. Both of these principles are strictly adhered to by Ukrainians. Sees that their comrades do not share fake news on the internet, which can be very damaging.

We must remember - what is trendy may not be useful at all. Therefore, we should try our best to filter such things. A clear example of this is the emergence and spread of xenophobic statements. On the one hand, it seemed that this post was an expression of anger, aggression, and resistance. Here we can learn rationalism from the Ukrainians - what will benefit us more and what will harm our opponent? This rationalism is very well seen in the patriotic posts of Ukrainians and the spread of information. They know when to show creativity and when to spread the established message. In our case, our actions will often turn into a message against us.

In this case, we can be creative in discovering new news channels and, to a lesser extent, in conveying the messages themselves. When a war is going on, it is important that everyone follows the plan in an organized manner. At such times, arbitrary actions can be harmful.

Also, discipline has a crucial factor. War, including information warfare, is won by discipline and proper military strategy.

This war is also won by the fact that on the one hand there is truth, correct, and verified information, on the other hand - the troll factory is spreading lies. Credibility is very important in information warfare. Classical media - CNN, CBS, BBC, or other important news sources - provide significant assistance to Ukraine. And most interestingly - the truth is spread through all these channels. I have been watching this information war for six months and not once have I noticed a fake story. On the one hand, we have the right information, on the other hand - a great stream of lies, the falsity of which is revealed very soon. Consequently, they lose credibility and fail. The official part of the Russian propaganda machine (TACC, RIA Novosti) knows this very well - unlike other periods, including the periods of wars with Georgia, it is very reluctant to spread false news. Be very careful not to lose credibility and become part of the trolley information machine. I think this is also one of the results of winning the information war.