Back to news

Internews Ukraine Presents Research: “Why Conspiratorial Propaganda Works and What We Can Do About It”

June 15 – Internews Ukraine, as part of its UkraineWorld project, organized an online discussion where it presented its research report “Why Conspiratorial Propaganda Works and What We Can Do About It.” Twenty-eight journalists and experts attended online, and the discussion collected 600 views on Facebook over two days.

The research was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and was a joint project of several institutions:

  • Internews Ukraine carried out media monitoring;
  • Cardiff University Crime and Security Research Institute (Wales, UK) conducted social media analysis; and
  • Kharkiv Institute for Social Research organized focus groups.

The report cited data from a survey carried out by Lennart Maschmeyer (Center for Security Studies at ETH, Zurich), in collaboration with Alexei Abrahams (Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, the US).

The moderator was Volodymyr Yermolenko, Ukrainian philosopher, analytics director at Internews Ukraine, editor-in-chief of https://ukraineworld.org/, and lecturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. The speakers were:

  • Peter Pomerantsev – Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in the US;
  • Angelina Kariakina – Ukrainian journalist, co-founder of the Public Interest Journalism Lab, editor and media manager at UA:PBC;
  • Inna Borzylo – Expert at the Public Interest Journalism Lab, former executive director of Center UA; and
  • Vitalii Rybak – Analyst at Internews Ukraine.

Major takeaways:

  • Around 40% of Ukrainians tend to believe in conspiratorial narratives coming from an array of sources, such as traditional and online media (both outside and inside Ukraine, some of which are openly aligned with the Kremlin);
  • Social media personalities are more successful than online media brands in spreading conspiratorial (disinformation) narratives among Ukrainians;
  • Telegram acts as a major amplifier of malign narratives;
  • The prevalent conspiratorial narratives are:
  • Ukraine is now under the covert external governance of Western supervisors (creditors);
  • George Soros and the International Monetary Fund want to exploit Ukrainian land; and
  • The US has set up a network of biotechnology labs in Ukraine; and
  • Ukrainians in the south and east are more likely to believe anti-Western narratives, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. Some 49% of Ukrainians in the south, 51% in the east, and 61% in the Donbas either “tend to agree” or “unequivocally agree” that Ukraine is under the “yoke” of Western curators, as compared to 31% in the west and 29% in the center of the country.
  • Key recommendations on how to counteract conspiratorial narratives include:

o   Turning negatives into positives: e.g., “personal progress” can be connected to broader national progress, which is contingent on integration with the international community. Ukrainians must be convinced that their individual wellbeing and progress are directly connected with EU and Euro-Atlantic integration, and that the more integration, the better their lives will be;

o   National cohesion, reforms, and international connections can reinforce Ukrainians’ sense of personal security;

o   International partners such as the EU should engage the public through “pro-social” communicators who can systematically explain their position to Ukrainians;

o   Together with the Ukrainian government, the international community needs to explain how reforms and international integration can strengthen security and survival;

o   Ukrainian media need to promote trust: constructive, solutions-based news can increase people’s understanding of the possibility of positive change; and

o   Conspiratorial narratives and disinformation need to be crowded out by fair discussions in town hall-style debates, education projects, and media.

More on the website of the Arena research program of the Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) at the London School of Economics and the Johns Hopkins University SNF Agora Institute in English

Download the report here

Photo: Ukraine World