Centre for Strategic Communication in 2022

The year 2022 brought many challenges and trials to all Ukrainians, but this year was also a time of faith, support, and unity in the struggle for our common victory.  

From day one of the full-scale invasion, the team at the Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security reconfigured its operations to meet the real needs of wartime.

We systematically monitor and counter Russian propaganda and disinformation, respond to enemy information attacks, and do everything to support Ukrainians’ resilience to enemy narratives.

Read about the main outcomes and most important vectors of the Centre’s work that can be disclosed publicly in our report for 2022. We will share more after the war is over. 

The main areas for DEPARTMENT OF MONITORING AND ANALYSIS are:

  • daily digests of how Russian propaganda works during the war — about 165 materials were published between April 1 and December 9.
  • a daily set of narratives for information response of state authorities, experts, and society;

In addition:

  • the department prepared and published 220 analytical texts in Ukrainian and 144 texts in English;
  • 15 public events were held: round tables, conferences, briefings, webinars, exhibitions;
  • on September 22, a street exhibition “Ruscism is…” was opened in Kyiv — a joint project of the Centre, the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, and the National Museum of the Revolution of Dignity under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy.

The Centre regularly helps Ukrainian and foreign media to cover the war, both with logistics and information. 

It also conducts its own information and awareness campaigns — independently and in cooperation with other ministries/departments. There have already been quite a few, but we will list just three key public cases. 

1. The story of the “grandma with a red flag”

This information campaign destroyed the symbol of Russia’s war against Ukraine created by Russian propaganda

The Centre for Strategic Communication found the heroine from the video — Anna Ivanivna Ivanova. The video where Ukrainian soldiers run into an elderly couple who confused the AFU with the Russians was used by the propaganda of the aggressor state as proof of civilians’ positive attitude to the occupiers. The Russians tried to use the image of the old lady with the flag as a symbol of the war of aggression.

The Centre found the woman and her husband and recorded an interview with them that refutes the claims of Russian propaganda. The refutation went viral and was featured not only in the leading Ukrainian media, but also in foreign ones. Enemy propagandists, outraged by the truth, did not miss this case either. As a result, this image of the “grandma with a red flag” was no longer used by the propagandists, and they began to look for new symbols.

The Centre also contributed to sharing the true story of the woman and her life during the Russo-Ukrainian war — it helped to organize the woman’s interviews for foreign media, including Spektr, Washington Post and Novaya Gazeta, and the BBC material was nominated and became one of the three best journalistic investigations about Russia, while the video about this story already has over a million views. 

2. Responding to accusations of embezzlement of military aid 

An important case was the joint communication with other departments to the internal and external audience of the message “Why Ukraine is a reliable user of Western weapons.

The information campaign was Ukraine’s response to manipulative and expressly propagandistic materials in Russian and foreign media, aimed at spreading doubts about the expediency and reliability of military aid to Ukraine among citizens of partner countries.

The Centre for Strategic Communication has refuted all claims about embezzlement of Western weapons in Ukraine and has listed 10 reasons why weapons are tightly controlled in Ukraine. 

3. Manipulations about Italian journalist Mattia Sorbi

The Centre joined the information campaign to clarify what actually happened to the Italian journalist in the Kherson oblast, while the Russians wanted to pass him off as a victim of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Moscow claimed that its soldiers rescued Mattia Sorbi, allegedly after the Ukrainian military abandoned him and led him down a mined road, where he blew up on a landmine. However, the Centre for Strategic Communication found out and shared information that Sorbi violated safety rules himself and went to the occupied Kherson by himself without permission and company of Ukrainian soldiers due to his agreement with the Russian side. 

There were also other cases, like refuting claims against the AFU by Amnesty International; the Centre researched why RT has no place in the civilized world, and many other things that are all available on our website. The website also gives you an opportunity to subscribe to weekly newsletters. 

The activity of the COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT is aimed at building a network of channels on various social platforms to reach the largest possible audience. 

In less than 10 months, the department was able to grow the audience of the Centre’s pages in the most common social networks (Facebook, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube) and launch new communication channels, including Instagram and Viber. The Centre takes into consideration the specifics and different target audiences of different social networks and uses different ways to convey information for each of them.

Following the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Centre’s Telegram channel and Facebook page became one of the most important sources of news for Ukrainians, earning trust primarily with official and verified information. SPRAVDI’s posts are cited by leading Ukrainian media and representatives of the authorities (more than 2,000 channels). 

Information in the Telegram channel received about 400 million views, and the reach of the Facebook page is about 28 million. 

Twitter has become a platform for spreading the truth about the war to a foreign audience. The Centre’s page was visited by 7.4 million users. Additionally, the foreign audience perceives the Centre’s publications as a reliable source and the position of the state. 

During 2022, the Centre launched an Instagram page for graphic materials and explainers, primarily targeting the youth. In addition, by collaborating with well-known bloggers and influencers, celebrities and media, the Centre has managed to tell a wider audience about enemy propaganda, the information component of war, and share useful tips for living in war conditions.

The YouTube channel of the Centre regularly publishes videos of the Dovidka.info project, reviews of Russian propaganda, as well as vlogs about disinformation.

The MONITORING DEPARTMENT processes the monitoring reports that the Centre receives from partners, and also conducts monitoring studies independently, using monitoring offices. Over the year, it has prepared analytical materials dedicated to the Russian and global media landscape to identify potential information threats to Ukraine. This includes:

  • The media landscapes of the countries of Europe, North and Latin America, Africa, Australia were studied, and the information space of Poland, Italy, Germany, France and the Baltic countries was separately analysed based on the monitoring conducted by the Ukrainian social startup LetsData in partnership with Detector Media NGO.
  • Based on the Ukraine War Disinfo Working Group monitoring, common disinformation narratives of the Russian propaganda in Eastern and Central European countries were studied; particularly the narratives regarding military aid to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, nuclear blackmail and escalation of the war were analysed.
  • Disinformation narratives on the subject of “American biolaboratories in Ukraine and the world” were studied based on the analysis of news publications in the Russian information space, and publications in the Russian media regarding international relations and industry were analysed in order to find out how sanctions affected Russia and to refute the disinformation narrative that “sanctions make Russia stronger,” based on Attack Index’s monitoring of the Russian media landscape.
  • A network of disinformation advertising campaign pages on Facebook regarding “cash payments for Ukrainians” was identified in the period from May to July, and an analytical material was prepared based on SemanticForce monitoring data with an explanation of the scammers’ scheme and recommendations that will help protect yourself against similar advertising campaigns. 
  • In cooperation with NWO.ai, monitoring was carried out regarding coverage of a missile hitting the territory of Poland and the topic of ecocide as a result of Russia’s actions against Ukraine in the media space of European countries and the USA.
  • With the help of SemanticForce and NWO.ai’s monitoring profiles, the Centre has been tracking relevant topics and information threats that required rapid response, preventive measures and notifying the population

Dovidka.info

The main achievement of the PROJECT DEPARTMENT is the design and launch of the digital platform Dovidka.info.

Project description:

  • The Dovidka.info digital platform, which collects and constantly updates important advice and recommendations for the population on a wide range of issues connected with Russia’s full-scale invasion.
  • The Telegram bot and the Viber channel, as well as the Dovidka.info landing page as part of the Leaflet in Case of Emergency or War. Botchecher bot verification project. 
  • Dovidka Info YouTube project is a platform where the most prominent Ukrainian experts from various fields give advice on surviving and organizing your life during the war.

The achievements of the department team during the year include:

  • collaboration with the Kyiv Metro and Ukrzaliznytsia, which made it possible to broadcast motion videos created within the Dovidka info project in metro and Intercity+ trains;
  • establishing cooperation with KyivStar TV as part of the Dovidka info project;
  • establishment of cooperation with Viber, thanks to which recommendations of the Centre’s channels appeared in Viber’s recommendations (“Useful” section). 

In 2022, the team of the EDUCATION DEPARTMENT launched the educational project “School for Countering Disinformation.” It is aimed at developing the skills of civil servants in countering disinformation and building strategic communications. 

Organizing training 

Within the School for Countering Disinformation, the Centre held over 30 trainings (including 14 within the programme Russian Disinformation and Countermeasures) for civil servants, representatives of government agencies, the military, as well as students and teachers. 

The trainings covered hybrid and information warfare and their components: propaganda, manipulation, fakes, disinformation, tools for their detection and countermeasures, as well as effective communications.

More than 700 people took part in the training.

It is especially valuable that after the official launch of the School, the Centre began to receive direct requests from government bodies to conduct trainings. For instance, on request, Centre experts held trainings for representatives of South Operational Command, the National Police, and the Ministry of Defence.

State certification of educational programs 

The National Civil Service Agency approved two training curricula developed by the Centre together with partners. ECTS credits are awarded to civil servants for training under these programmes.

  • “Russian Disinformation and Countermeasures”
  • Strategic Communications in Public Administration”

Manual for detecting and countering Russian propaganda and disinformation 

The Centre’s team developed and prepared for publication a manual for civil servants on countering Russian propaganda and disinformation. 

The purpose of the manual is to teach civil servants about the main aspects of Russian propaganda and methods to counter it. The manual provides an analysis of the information component of the hybrid war that Russia is waging against Ukraine; highlights the main features and techniques of Russian propaganda and disinformation; outlines the main methods of detection and adequate response to Russian disinformation in the context of strategic communications, and proposes a scheme for evaluating the communication measures.

WORKING WITH BIG TECH

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, the Centre has partnered with US Big Tech companies (Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram) to jointly counter Russian disinformation and propaganda on social media. 

As part of cooperation with tech companies, the Centre:: 

  • regularly shared information with partners regarding suspicious messages and accounts on Facebook and Instagram, including ones promoting hate speech or disinformation. 26 requests for content moderation have been submitted, which includes over 1800 accounts and posts;
  • requested the protection of individual accounts from moderation, as well as the promotion of publications posted on their pages, with the aim of spreading authentic Ukrainian sources to a wider audience. This includes accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as relevant websites of Ukrainian government agencies, representatives of state authorities, media, opinion leaders, expert organizations and their representatives;
  • constantly reported information about Facebook and Instagram accounts that tried to impersonate Ukrainian public figures and civil servants. 25 requests for content moderation have been submitted;
  • developed a unified position on information security in interaction with social networks and US platforms jointly with the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy.

In addition, this year, the Centre’s experts participated in over 15 international events: conferences, workshops, roundtables, open and closed discussions, including:

  • Cyber Security Forum — Katowice, Poland
  • OIP Network Conference 2022 — Riga, Latvia 
  • 31st Economic Forum — Karpacz, Poland 
  • 3rd Conference on Countering Disinformation and Building Resilience — London, UK 
  • Panel discussion “Countering disinformation and building strategic communications” — Brussels, Belgium
  • Conference of communicators of NATO member states — Skopje, North Macedonia
  • Closed workshop “Conventional and Hybrid Military Threats from Russia and China—experience of frontline states” — Budapest, Hungary
  • Public panel discussion “Chinese and Russian hybrid threats: democratic resilience in frontline states” — Budapest, Hungary
  • Counter Disinformation Wargame — Riga, Latvia
  • Study visit to Brussels, Belgium

The war continues, and more challenges lie ahead. But at the Centre for Strategic Communication, we will continue fighting against the Russian disinformation and propaganda, bringing victory closer!

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