Social media featured prominently in the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, helping to catalyze pro-democratic fervor and shape political debate in the Middle East at that time. In Ukraine, now engaged in a full-scale ground war with Russian forces, posts by regular citizens have directly influenced the tide of war in these early days, from helping to expose the movements of Russian convoys to rallying international support around the resistance, Northeastern experts say.
“Social media has not been a neutral observer in this conflict” so far, says Max Abrahms, associate professor of political science and an expert in international security. “It’s clear that overwhelmingly social-media users are siding with Ukraine.”
With so many Ukrainian civilians and soldiers in the line of fire, there’s been a glut of social content from the front lines, which major news organizations have used to construct an information-rich picture of the invasion that is, in some ways, unprecedented for a conflict in its early days, says John Wihbey, associate professor of media innovation and strategy at Northeastern, who studies misinformation online.