Conscious media investment amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Photo of Ukrainian flag blowing in the wind, by Max Kukurudziak

At CAN, we know that many advertisers and marketers are concerned about conscious media investment amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have rounded up the information that our Investigations Officer has come across, as well as the measures the major platforms have put in place in response to the invasion, and guidance and resources for advertisers and marketers. We will update this resource as new measures are announced and new information comes to light.

An overview from CAN’s Investigations Officer

There are several Russia-backed news platforms, such as Sputnik and RT, that have been reporting on the Ukraine invasion with a strong Russian propaganda tone. These organisations have largely been demonetised or blocked major social media sites; but still, their narratives are still reaching millions and spreading. Stories tend to state that this violence is happening in order to ‘crush neo-Nazi’s’ in Ukraine, while downplaying the severity of the invasion. We have also monitored some conspiracy-type content, with articles talking about the “Globalist Elite” and their ‘role’ in this conflict. There are also many articles celebrating Russian military operations in Ukraine and deliberate disinformation related to things that would make Russia look bad or weak (e.g. counter-attacks by Ukraine). These narratives have not just remained on Russia-backed news platforms; we have seen similar tropes being employed on Fox News and GB News.

Examples headlines found on Sputnik in February 2022

Social media has also been rife with mis and disinformation around the invasion. One conspiracy theory doing the rounds is that US biolabs are being targeted in Ukraine, and this being the real motive behind the invasion. Furthermore, false videos have been going viral.

Among monitoring the invasion and the coverage of it, Belarus should also be a key focus. In the past, CAN has worked with civil society partners to highlight the human rights crisis in Belarus, specifically focussing on the state-owned television channels. With Belarus playing a key role (the country was used as one of the launching pads for the invasion), these state broadcasters should not be overlooked, and we will continue to monitor them.

Updates from Google

On Tuesday 1st March, Google Europe confirmed via Twitter that YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe had been blocked, effective immediately. Prior to this, on Friday 25th February, Google Europe tweeted a series of statements outlining measures the company had put in place, which were also outlined on the Google Ukraine blog. In an email to CAN on Saturday 26th February, Google confirmed that it had taken the following measures:

  • Google has paused a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube and across its display network, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions. This includes RT’s YouTube channels globally. It expects this list could continue to grow as it evaluates any new sanctions and export controls.
  • It has limited recommendations to these channels on YouTube. RT’s main channel hasn’t been treated as an authoritative source, meaning it hasn’t been featured prominently in the breaking and top news shelves.
  • In response to a government request, Google has restricted access to RT and a number of other channels in the Ukraine.

Further details on the above can be found via Reuters (free to read).

Updates from Meta

On Friday 25th February, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy announced on Twitter that the platform had barred Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on its platform anywhere in the world, and had applied labels to additional Russian state media. In further updates in its newsroom, the platform outlined the steps it has taken to protect the people on the ground, including the ability for people to lock their Facebook profile, removing the ability to view and search friends lists, and additional tools on Messenger. On Sunday 27th February, it reported that it had taken down a network of people running websites posing as independent news entities.

Updates from Twitter

On Friday 25th February, Twitter stated that it had paused ads in Ukraine and Russia ‘to ensure critical public safety information is elevated’. It also said that it was proactively reviewing Tweets to detect platform manipulation, and ‘and taking enforcement action against synthetic and manipulated media that presents a false or misleading depiction of what’s happening’, while citing its synthetic and manipulated media policy.

Further guidance and resources

We highly recommend that all advertisers check with their partners on all media buys, and, if advertising in Russia, check which channels are being advertised on. Please do use the information above when checking in with partners, as well as our mis/disinformation and hate speech manifestos. Marketers might also find Mark Ritson’s advice helpful on how brands can respond during war. The CIPR also recommends the Government Communication Service toolkit on reducing the impact of mis- and disinformation through communications.

As mentioned earlier, there are some keywords, phrases and themes that advertisers should be aware of:

  • Mentions of the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine: this is a phrase that has been used in Russian propaganda to justify the invasion.
  • Articles blaming or mentioning the ‘Global Elite’ as a cause for the escalation of violence.
  • Pieces celebrating Russian military operations in Ukraine; boasting about headway made into the country, size of military etc.
  • Platforming of conspiracy theories.

For more information on how you can help Ukraine against Russian aggression, visit https://uacrisis.org/en/help-ukraine

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