Online-course in verification launched

The course, I have developed with Myhailyna Skoryk, targets journalists from New Independent States, where Russian language is commonly used. Thus, we recorded the verification course in Russian. It will be interested for all who spend more then 6 hours per day in Internet and social media. Registration is here.

With the course, we want to reshape critical thinking of users and journalists while dealing with information online – we teach how to verify photo, video and profiles in social media, in particular in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We suggest hints of verification in by means of geolocation (Yomapic, Google Street View, Google Earth, etc).

The course has 8 lectures, divided in 2-3 episodes. Each lecture is followed by script, 5 questions to be answered and additions video/articles watch&read.

The final test includes 15 questions, those, successfully pass the test, will receive a certificate of complition. So far, 141 participant registered and one – completed the course. Join the course at VUM online platform.

verification-zastavka

verification, education, online course, journalists, Ukraine, NIS

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Cyber attacks against online news sites in Ukraine (2013-2014)

Disclaimer: In May 2014 in Boston I defended my master thesis about the role of social media in popular protests in Ukraine (2013-2014). Publishing excerpts of thesis, the following one – about cyber attacks.

The growing role of the Internet in serving up news for the audiences has a positive influence on maintaining media freedoms worldwide. The opponents of free speech respond with cyber attacks targeting news sites and social media. Ukraine is a case. In 2013-2014, Ukraine witnessed an increased number of cyber attacks against independent online media and media activists. According to an IMI report, 49 cyber attacks against journalists in Ukraine were made in 2013.

The attacks reflect a general pattern of silencing Internet voices during protests in many countries. The attempts to shut down the Internet were carried out during the uprisings in Iran in 2009, Egypt in 2011, and Syria in 2012. Even in Turkey, the country that aspires to join the EU, the government blocked Twitter and Facebook upon the rise of anti-government protests in March 2014.

During the protests in Ukraine in 2013-2014, unidentified hackers applied different strategies of cyber war. First of all, they attempted to crack users’ emails and files. For example, in October 2014, the computer of Oksana Romanyuk, the executive director of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), was hacked, and the private email correspondence was leaked publicly.

Also, hackers targeted social networks and news sites through distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack as an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended user.

winter timeOn December 2, 2013, the site of Ukrainska Pravda was under a DDoS attack. It was the first identified attack against a news resource from the time the protests began on November 21, 2013.

On December 13, 2013, Cityband.com.ua, a resource that had published a map
of protests in Kyiv, was shut down. The notice on its front page said: “Our site is under DDoS attack. We had to close hosting. Sorry, friends. Instead we have created a more informative map on Yandex – Cityband Euromaidan.”

On December 14, 2013, journalists at Liga.net posted a message to their official page in Facebook: “We are currently under a very strong DDoS attack. Our technical team is fighting the night through.” The site http://www.yanukovich.info, that published findings on corruption schemes of President Yanukovych’s family, was shut down by DDoS attacks for a couple of days in the middle of December 2013.

Unknown hackers have likewise attacked other online news resources covering the Ukrainian protests – Glavcom.ua, Censor.net and RadioSvoboda.org.

In addition to cyber attacks, the work of journalists and independent online resources was challenged by unidentified journalists who launched fake sites, which echoed popular news sites. In particular, Ukrainska Pravda discovered two copycat sites, launched in summer 2013. The first, Ukrainska Kryvda, stole the design of Ukrainska Pravda and published biased anti-opposition articles.

By launching Ukrainska Kryvda, initiators violated copyright laws, registered their site in Russia and located their hosting in Australia, having protected the identity of the people behind the site.

The second site stole the brand “Ukrainska Pravda” and registered domain name similar to pravda.com.ua – ukrpravda.ua. Both fake sites demonstrated that the methods to combat independent journalism in Ukraine had become more sophisticated. As of March 2014 both fake sites have been deactivated after months of their activity.

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Lviv Media Forum. Engaging journalists to communicate with readers

lvivmediaforumOn May 28-30, 2015 Lviv hosted the biggest media conference in Ukraine – Lviv Media Forum bringing together 600 participants from 10 countries. I visited #lvivmediaforum as a speaker on May 30, third day of the conference. According to participants, I talked to, third day was the most successful one – 16 lectures were held in the premises of Ukrainian Catholic University – in rooms equipped for lecturing and interaction with attendants.

My lecture on content curation by means of social media for journalists brought 40 participants, including representatives of Kyiv Post, IT Kharkiv (Hromadske Kharkiv), journalists from Odesa, Izmail, Rivne, Lviv and other regions. On the eve of my lecture, ex-President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili has been reported to occupy the post of governor of Odessa region in Ukraine, thus, I started discussion with the question on news gathering of the alleged appointment. We have discussed why the news was published online, which sources proved it, what was background of the appointment.

The findings were the following – Igor Shevchenko, the minister of ecology was the first who published the news through his Facebook profile. State official, host of TV-shows Anton Geraschenko commented on Saakashvili appointment, advocating the choice of President Poroshenko. Through monitoring of social media, we found out that Saakashvili participated in a big march in Odesa a week before – it could serve as preparations for Odesa residents to accept the appointment. Also, as soon as news was published, Russian bots started campaign to mock Saakashvili.

We also discussed hot topics for newsrooms – how to be prepared to cover breaking news or sport events (Ice Hockey World Championship, League of Europe football games). Only few newsrooms in Ukraine plan coverage aiming to involve readers in news consumption. Novoye Vremya, Podrobnosti.ua, 24 TV Channel demonstrates well-prepared strategies to involve readers. For example, Novoye Vremya Coub channel has reached over 9 million views and the number of their coubs surpassed 180 clips.

Additional links on LvivMediaForum:

Official site with video of lectures – http://lvivmediaforum.com/

Twitter-coverage on Day 1 of the forum – https://storify.com/insider_ua/yak-pochinavsya-lvivmediaforum-pershiy-den

Instagram-coverage on Day 1 of the forum – https://storify.com/insider_ua/nebanalni-instagrami-lvivmediaforum

Russian professor lectures about media manipulations of Russia TV channels

Manipulation of public agenda, transfer, the use of mythology, demonization are one of few approaches, Russian TV channels manipulate public opinion in Russia to portray Ukraine as chaos and Russia as cosmos, the symbol of stability. Russian professor of history Valeriy Solovei delivers a bright lecture to expose propaganda in Russian media.

Note: Valeriy Solovei is a professor of Moscow State University after Lomonosov. He has academic freedom to share his knowledge of media technologies to students. Valeriy Solovei tweets via @V_Solovey.

Research: The ISIS Twitter Census by Brookings

ISIS Screenshot at Mar 09 14-31-52

On March 4, 2015, Brookings published a special report targeting the issue of ISIS social media presence. The authors have identified 40,000 ISIS supporters on Twitter. How does it work? What does it mean in the conflicts of 21 century?

The core findings by the researchers are the following:

  • In October through November 2014, at least 46,000 Twitter accounts were used by ISIS supporters.
  • A sample of 20,000 confirmed ISIS supporters was examined to extract demographics data, with a plurality of users apparently residing in the territories controlled by the Islamic State. The second-most common location for ISIS supporters was Saudi Arabia.
  • Nearly one in five ISIS supporting accounts designated English as their primary language. Almost three quarters selected Arabic, and one in 20 selected French.
  • Thousands of accounts have been suspended by Twitter since October 2014, measurably degrading ISIS’s ability to project its propaganda to wider audiences.

Note: last year I published the research on the role of social media in popular protests in Ukraine

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Mocking Russian propagandist journalists. How does it work?

Lifenews at Feb 13 18-21-48

For the international community Russian LIfeNews TV  channel is a classic example of the worst propaganda and misinformation. It’s so-called journalists follow insurgents in Donbass and appear with their camera as soon as shelling or fight begin. Some even claim, if you see Russian journalists with camera, expect bombing or shelling. LifeNews poses itself as “the most breaking news”. They always ready to pay for unique content – user’s footage of catastrophes or accidents.

This week LifeNews team among many other media came to Minsk Summit – Ukraine-Russian-Germany-France talks to stop the war in Donbass through cease fire.  On the eve of talk LifeNews journalist Aleksandr Yanyshev assaulted two Ukrainian journalists. He started yelling at them and when run out of arguments, he started …barking. It was shot by other journalists and published online.

The episode was widely discussed in social media and central Ukrainian TV stations. Users started mocking the behavior of Russian journalists producing Coub video. Coub is a platform that helps to create looped video. It is easily managed and let users add music and footage from elsewhere.

The best examples of mocking LifeNews incident in Minsk are bellow:

1. LifeNews and Russian talk – http://coub.com/view/4z8z7

2. Lifenews and Who Let the Dog Out? http://coub.com/view/4z9nj

3. LifeNews as idiot http://coub.com/view/4zbu2

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The last argument. Russia threatens the world with new war

Russian media are famous for biased coverage of politics, especially regarding the war in Ukraine, led by insurgents and backed by Russian military. Many Russians see the war in Ukraine just as a minor episode of a greater geopolitical conflict – the one between West (civilized world) and East (Russia). Thus, the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbass and thousands of lives of local population and soldiers do not matter.

In video bellow, Russian journalists discuss so-called “parade” of Russian troops to Warsaw, Berlin and other European capitals. Initially, I thought, the program is a kind of John Stewart’s “The Daily Show”, but  those journalists pretend to  do reporting – discussing the scenarios of the future preparations to May 9 celebration – anniversary of the victory in the World War II.  Meanwhile some pro-Ukrainian activists prepared subtitles in the video to target the international community.

Second video shows insurgents in Lugansk regions addressing to public on the eve of Orthodox Christmas. A girl sends best wishes with Christmas and hopes for the victory in a fight against Ukraine. “But if we gonna loose, we will blow the world”, – she says to threaten the world with nuclear blast. That’s how the creativity for so-called “ruskiy mir” (Russian world) works.

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