“I read it from a Telegram channel” is a line we hear next to every day by now in Ukraine. Telegram channels have become one of the primary sources on which Ukrainians rely for information. Their usefulness is undeniable, but how safe are they?
Among the 100 most popular Ukrainian Telegram channels, eight high-end ones mimic mass media outlets. In other words, they present themselves as media but do not abide by journalism standards and publish manipulative information. This conclusion comes from the Detector Media research.
In this article, you will find advice on ensuring a Telegram channel is credible.
Which of the unreliability flags drew your attention the most? Do they apply to the Telegram channels you follow?
No emotional vocabulary and few emojis
People love experiencing and sharing emotions. Channels understand that and use emotional triggers to gain popularity and increased views. Words like “terrible”, “wonderful”, “horrid”, etc., are emotional triggers that trigger an emotional response and also distort information. Overuse of emojis and exclamation marks likewise triggers emotions.
Official pages cited as original sources
“The first casualty of war is truth.” Unfortunately, we may never know the entire truth, but Ukrainian governmental institutions and officials have access to the most updated information and should be trusted.
Telegram channels must refer to official information sources in their posts.
Links to original sources enable journalists to make it clear that they do not simply fake their information. They enable the users to check swiftly whether the information was conveyed correctly. A hyperlink, a link to the original source inserted directly into the text of the news, is a bonus to trust.
No information akin to “the government won’t tell you this” or “my relative, who works for the surveillance service, confirmed this”
Such information relies on anonymous or otherwise unconfirmable sources and cannot be trusted. Information containing such phrasing often emerges due to russian psychological operations that seek to frighten Ukrainians.
A Telegram channel that circulates such information should not be trusted.
A “blue tick” is not a sign of quality
Unfortunately, the “blue tick” common for many channels of governmental institutions does not guarantee the quality or reliable information. For instance, the channel of Olha Sharii, the wife of propagandist Anatolii Sharii, also has the “blue tick”. The channel regularly posts disinformation.
The author of a Telegram channel is a known quantity
There is always a specific purpose for spreading information online, whether it is the desire to entertain, intimidate, or manipulate the reader’s mind.
Knowing who manages the Telegram channel is instrumental to understanding the author’s interests and goals. The author can be an individual, institution, or organization. If a channel belongs to a specific person, it should be visible as a tagged contact (displayed with @)
A channel that lists no contacts and does not cite its authorship should not be trusted.
The channel pretends to be a well-known media outlet
If such is the case, it should not be trusted. “Lookalikes” of credible channels frequently appear on Telegram.
Usually, the websites of media outlets or other official organizations provide links to their Telegram channels. Through them, you can reliably reach the authentic channel.
The list of information dumps includes “TRUKHA”, “Всевидящее око” [The All-seeing Eye], and “Украина Сейчас” [Ukraine Now]. The complete list is much more sprawling. Below are a few examples of why you should not trust the “TRUKHA” channels:
– They advertise their channel using fake information supplemented by appeals to false authority
– “TRUKHA” update posts instead of posting their apologies and debunking fake information they themselves regularly post
– It is a commercial project first, as its administrators will even post manipulative information if the price is right.
Moreover, information dumps actively resort to hate speech towards women and minorities. They often circulate memes and other themed digs.
They also actively spread photos and videos showing destroyed buildings and debris from enemy missiles and drones at their landing sites.
Paid sponsored materials under hashtags like #нампишуть [#wehavebeeninformed] are another feature that distinguishes information dumps. Sometimes, such materials spread falsehoods about specific individuals or organizations.