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USAID Funds Research into Social Media to Protect Ukraine’s Information Environment  

July 17 – As Ukraine prepared for snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, July 21, Facebook was flooded with negative posts about the parties, and the Russian social media network VKontakte posted smears against Ukrainian political parties that promote the idea of a sovereign and democratic Ukraine.

UkraineWorld, a public education initiative supported by USAID’s Media Program in Ukraine and implemented by Internews Ukraine, released a survey on July 17 that looked at the likely voting patterns of active users of Facebook, Instagram and VKontakte.

On Instagram, 82% of all political posts were dedicated to President Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, 17% of election-related posts named former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party, and 5% of posts were dedicated to musician Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Golos Party. Analysis of Facebook posts demonstrated a 75/25 split in Ukrainian voter support for Zelenskyy and Poroshenko respectively, which mirrors the results of the presidential election.

The survey also found that most pro-Zelenskyy followers use the #Kvartal-95 hashtag, confirming the belief that his fans migrated from liking his entertainment to supporting him electorally. Internews Ukraine’s experts analyzed a total of 5,600,000 posts by users who reside in Ukraine, with the help of artificial intelligence methods applied by the Singularex group.

About 7,000,000 Ukrainians citizens have been surfing Russian social network VKontakte despite its ban in Ukraine in 2017. The analysis indicated that VKontakte violates human rights, disrespects intellectual property, abuses privacy and empowers hate speech.

Internews Ukraine’s research is the first attempt in Ukraine to analyze messages distributed through social networks during elections and to compare them with key trends in Ukraine’s information environment. The research is designed to provide ideas for how to protect Ukraine from the consequences of Russia’s information war.

Full survey results here.