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Editorial: In Russian invasion of Ukraine, social media has changed the shape of war

The devastation of people's lives in war-torn Ukraine has been beamed across the world through social media, influencing international politics.

    The images being transmitted include destroyed towns and villages, children cowering amid bombings, and people fleeing the country. The images of so many dead Ukrainian civilians found in the Kyiv suburbs in the wake of Russia's retreat from the area have amplified international condemnation of Moscow.

    Noteworthy is the fact that not only military force but social medial broadcasts have come to influence the situation. While Ukraine is not as strong as Russia militarily, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has utilized social media to draw attention to humanitarian damage unfolding in his country.

    The images can be seen anytime and anywhere with a smartphone, and information can be shared easily. Emotionally powerful videos and posts can spread in an instant and boost the power of transmission by resonating with existing media coverage.

    With tide of public opinion forming a backdrop, countries across the world quickly decided to impose unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia. Humanitarian support for Ukraine was strengthened, and Western countries have stepped up their supply of weapons to the country.

    It was the Arab Spring, a democratic movement in the Middle East 11 years ago, that provided momentum for bringing social media into focus as a tool to influence politics. Social media was also used by dissidents in the political upheaval in 2014 that saw the collapse of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine.

    When Russia annexed Crimea that year, it waged a hybrid war combining disinformation with a military campaign. This time, however, it has been left at a disadvantage.

    Since the annexation of Crimea, social media has spread explosively, and technology has also made major advances. Many people can now easily transmit scenes directly from battlefields. And through machine translation, people overseas have been able to understand the messages that are sent out.

    Propaganda has been a part of war throughout history. Now, however, it has become possible to verify the authenticity of information available on the internet. Russia has claimed that footage showing the atrocities suspected to have been committed by its military are "fake," but civilian organizations have compared it with satellite images and exposed Russia's plot holes.

    The spread of social media has changed the shape of war. Can a country's inhuman acts be curbed by individuals conveying the wretched state of affairs to the world? The power of citizens in a digital age is being put to the test.

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