Social media moves to frontline reporting in Ukraine crisis

Ukraine - Social media has turned into a powerful tool for keeping tabs on military hardware, and citizens on the ground have given the world a close and personal look at Russian troop movements along Ukraine's eastern border.

TikTok is often ahead of official confirmation of Russian troop movements.
TikTok is often ahead of official confirmation of Russian troop movements.  © IMAGO / Ukrinform, Depo Photos

As reported by Axios, frequent updates from social media users in Russia keep a live record of the Russian military buildup on the borders of Ukraine, often outpacing official confirmation from the US government.

Michael Kofman, director of Russian Studies at the US government's Center for Naval Analyses, is just one of many military and intelligence experts using tweets and TikTok posts to keep up with the newest developments along the Ukrainian border.

King's College PhD research student Rob Lee compiles tweets from users keeping tabs on Russian military movements, and has a stack of over 1,300 tweets from various users who post updates on the deployment of military hardware.

Open-source intelligence and journalism platform Bellingcat is another useful tool for anyone sifting through TikToks for information.

Their platform has helpful resources to assist with freelance reporting, including tips experts like Lee and Kofman can use to identify types of vehicles on the move in Russia and Belarus.

Algorithms on TikTok specifically push user content instead of mainstream media, which helps frontline photos and videos go viral around the world, but as useful as these posts can be, platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter have been misused to spread misinformation before.

Researchers are already harnessing the content mill to stay on top of hotspots like the tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Ukrinform, Depo Photos

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