According to the results of a sociological survey conducted by KMIS in December 2022, the number of Ukrainians who started reading Telegram channels to get news after February 24, 2022, has almost doubled.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Telegram channels have become one of the most popular sources of information among Ukrainians. Millions of Ukrainians subscribed to these pages to get the latest news as quickly as possible.
However, speed does not always mean quality. Telegram channels with millions of followers often spread unverified information (which is then corrected only through UPD or not at all), play on emotions, publish paid content, and more. A large number of anonymous Telegram channels contribute to the spread of disinformation, turning channels into a tool for influencing public opinion.
To learn more about how million-follower Telegram channels operate and why it is important to always verify the information they publish, read our new article based on research from the Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication.
Throughout 2022, the Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication studied the top 10 non-institutionalized, those not created by traditional or online media editorial offices, channels.
In particular: Труха, Украина Сейчас, Украина Online, Инсайдер UA, Реальная Война, Всевидящее ОКО, Телеграмна служба новин, Top News, Боже, яке кончене!, Ukraine NOW.
And also the channels of three mainstream media outlets: Суспільне. Новини, УП. Стрічка, Цензор. НЕТ
Accuracy of information
The quality and accuracy of information published by non-institutionalized Telegram channels and Ukrainian media channels differ significantly.
Only the Ukraine Now channel adhered to professional standards among the top 10 non-institutionalized Telegram channels. The rest of the analyzed channels partially or completely did not cite sources of information. For example, the Trukha Ukraine channel cited and hyperlinked to official news sources, but did not do so when it came to videos from social media.
On the other hand, the content of the three mainstream media channels was thoroughly checked.
Most non-institutionalized channels, with the exception of two («Украина сейчас», «Телеграмна служба новин»), did not disseminate open fakes during the monitoring period, but the reliability and origin of many messages were in doubt.
For example, they disseminated data on the number of killed soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine provided by Oleksiy Arestovych, despite the fact that he was not authorized to provide such information. Similarly, the channels referred to the leader of the ultranationalist movement C14, Yevhen Karas, spreading forecasts of missile strikes, although such forecasting is not within his competence.
Channels actively used impersonal references, such as “it is reported that…”, “our sources claim”, “there is information that…”, “it is reported”, “…is circulating on the network”.
Non-institutionalized channels used irony in their texts and provided their own comments on the news. This, of course, affects the audience’s perception of the news.
The channel “Insider UA”, in addition to this, also made its own assumptions, which were not substantiated, for example: “The death of Lukashenko, if it is planned by the Kremlin, will mean a military coup inside the Republic of Belarus and as a result a more war-savvy person will appear instead of Lukashenko.”
“Труха Украина” used derogatory expressions about individuals, emphasizing regional affiliation.
A striking case of ethical standards violation was recorded on the channel “Всевидящее ОКО“: a video of unclear content, shot in unknown location, is accompanied by a comment: “When TikTok went somewhere wrong: Odesa undertakers show how they pack bodies and dig graves.”
The majority of Telegram channels that emerged after the full-scale invasion are anonymous, and there is no information about their owners or team.
Only 2 out of 10 popular channels surveyed provide the names of the individuals behind them. They are Maxim Lavrinenko – “Труха” and Alexei Durnev – “Боже, яке кончене!”. Another channel, “Ukraine.NOW,” is supported by state institutions. The owner of the “Telegram News Service” channel is likely Dmytro Ulanovsky. Payments for advertising on the page are made in his name.
On the other hand, mainstream media outlets are legalized, and in most cases, their owners are not hidden.
Media literacy level of Telegram channel audience
The audience of these channels is not categorically critical of the content of Telegram channels, which may indicate a low level of media literacy.
Only a small number of respondents noted that they strongly negatively perceive false information in the news.
Other participants were more loyal to false information: they are used to analyzing whether such errors are one-time or systematic.
And if the channel apologizes and corrects the information, they continue to read it. They unsubscribe if they see that the appearance of false information is systematic.
Number of subscribers
Anonymous Telegram channels have a much larger audience because they publish news as quickly as possible. “Труха” and “Ukraine Now,” for example, published up to 750 posts a day at the beginning of the war, reducing the number of publications to 200 in May, and then to 100 a day, adjusting to the audience’s decreasing demand.
High-quality journalism with neutral reporting is much less motivating for subscription than emotional and manipulative content from non-institutionalized news channels. That is why mainstream media outlets have a smaller audience.