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

Suggesting 10 tips in cyber security for Ukrainian Internet users

Recently my team from Internews Ukraine has created a video tutorial in cyber security for Internet users in Ukraine. We had a task to deliver key issues in cyber security in an interactive way – to create animation that will simply explain what to do in order to be a meaningful user. How to use https instead of http, how to check the links received in email, how to avoid phishing attacks and build strong passwords. Since the tutorial lasts for almost 5 minutes, we have divided it into five parts – in each video one can find two tips.

In my opinion, users should know much more about cyber security and the list of 10 tips is not complete, but with this tutorial, users may start exploring the issue of cyber security and learn more on their own. The video is in Ukrainian, nevertheless, you can guess from illustrations what it is talking about. If you have any comments on it, please share, what should be improved and what do you like about the tutorial.

Part 1 10 tips in cyber security – http://youtu.be/EckuLLnq4mQ
Part 2 10 tips in cyber security – http://youtu.be/dLjB6Sv3ATg
Part 3 10 tips in cyber security – http://youtu.be/-ZZDKV-rw6M
Part 4 10 tips in cyber security – http://youtu.be/wp2o9EdgfzE
Part 5 10 tips in cyber security – http://youtu.be/rjiyRxO6pIQ

And the full tutorial in a single video:

Fake Anti-terrorist operation page of Ukrainian army in Facebook misleads readers

Pro-terrorists users have created a fake Facebook page for Press-Center of Anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine to misinform users about the Ukrainian army fighting against terrorists in Eastern Ukraine. By layout the fake page is identical to the official one – it has the same cover photo, avatar and mission statement.

Many pro-Ukrainian users liked the fake page, in particular 13 my Facebook friends did.  While official page of Press-Center of Anti-terrorist operation has 52 300 fans, the fake one – just 3800 fans. The fake page was launched on July 16, 2014 and publishes pro-Russian news and updates from the terrorists – the creators chose the tactic to repost statuses of Russian pro-terrorist users containing propaganda and misleading information.

On August 5, 2014, influential page Euromaidan SOS published a poster to bring attention to the fake page. Many users have submitted appeals to the Facebook abuse team but meanwhile the page is active as of July 13, 2014. Also, Pro-Ukrainian users publish warning messages on the wall of the fake page and in comments to each of its post.

The launch of such fake page might serve another evidence of the Russia informational war against Ukraine.

fake ato

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Russian terrorists acknowledged missile strike of the plane in Ukraine

On July 18, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 has crashed in Ukraine, on the border with Russia, with 298 people onboard. The investigation of the incident examines three main versions of the party responsible for the missile strike: Russian military, Ukrainian military, pro-Russian rebels/terrorists.

The investigators should draw their attention to the social media run by terrorists. In the early hours of the strike, the page devoted to the terrorists’ leader Strelkov (Girkin) informed that “rebels shot down Ukrainian AN-26 plane”. The footage added to the news showed the smoke of the crashed MH17.

In the aftermath, when it was clear that the target of the missile was a Malaysian passenger plane, the terrorists denounced news about shot of Ukrainian AN-26 plane and deleted it. Nevertheless, dozens users have captured screenshots of the news and published it. It might be used as an evidence of pro-Russian terrorists involvement into the biggest plane catastrophe of the recent ten years.

Later, terrorists published the news accusing Ukrainian military planes in shooting Malaysian MH17 down. The inconsistency of the coverage questions terrorists’ informational war. Also, Security Service of Ukraine has published  a phone conversation between terrorists discussing the crash of the plane. It identifies the names of those responsible for the missile strike.

Post by terrorists about the successfull missile strike of "Ukrainian" plane

Post by terrorists aboit the successfull missile strike of “Ukrainian” plane

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Agenda setting in newsgathering during anti-government protests 2013-2014 in Ukraine. Segment 2 of my thesis

Chapter 1 (pp.11-12)

To analyze media activism we should ask, who are the actors and what is their background? To implement media activism online, users should have at least relevant experience in blogging, civic activism and the media industry to understand how to successfully inform about the issues they address. In Ukraine, many successful online initiatives during anti-government protests were launched either by representatives of non-profits or journalists with solid experience in the fields. Thus, their experience helped to bring professional standards to grassroots initiatives, making them more noticeable to the eyes of professional media.

One of the examples to illustrate agenda setting by civic activists was the initiative of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center – a temporary institution launched by Ukrainian media experts and public relation specialists in early March 2014. The idea of the center was motivated by the misbalance of media coverage about Ukraine during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Crimea. The majority of state-owned Russian media used propaganda as a tool to mislead audiences about events in Ukraine. Russian coverage also targeted international media. In response, the initiators of the Center gave a floor to speakers from the Ukrainian government and representatives of the expert community. The center also invited foreign and local journalists, providing them with first hand information, thus encouraging them to generate news within the international and local informational flow, and thus sustaining the Ukrainian point of view on the conflict.

Full text of thesis available herehttps://grassglobal.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/thesisvitaliimorozfinal.pdf 

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