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Are The ‘War Porn’ Videos Shared On Social Media Disclosing Too Much?

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The war in Ukraine will soon enter its 15th year. Every day, videos from the frontlines are widely circulated on social media. Moscow and Kyiv both continue to release “war-porn” videos that feature the destruction by the opposing side of tanks, mobile launchers of rockets, and other weapons.

Often, these videos have geotags that pinpoint the exact place where an event occurred. It could give the enemy a better idea of where certain units are operating.

It’s not surprising that this is happening, given the fact that apps like Foursquare City Guide encourage a whole generation to check in whenever they leave the house. Social media users are also known to announce their locations regularly. The videos are being shared by warfighters as propaganda.

Video footage used as propaganda is nothing new. “Videos have been used in warfare as long as basic video technology existed,” said Dr. Timothy Sellnow, Professor and Associate Director of Graduate Studies, Research and Creative Activity, within the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, University of Central Florida.

The availability and quantity of such videos is a novelty in Ukraine.

Everyone with a mobile phone is able to record and upload videos. Sellnow added that such videos could be distributed worldwide in a matter of days, or hours. It is therefore unlikely that the dissemination of these videos for propaganda purposes by both parties to the conflict will cease. Videos recorded under covert circumstances have greater control potential because clandestine missions are more closely monitored and limited in access. It is hoped that videos, which are shared to elicit support for soldiers featured in them as heroes, will not compromise their security.

You’ve Got Too Much Information

In the first ever “Social Media War,” some military units seem to be broadcasting almost every day their exploits, but is this too much information? In the past, both civilians and military personnel have been warned to “Keep your lips shut” in war. Could we be seeing similar warnings regarding social media now?

Charles King, a technology analyst at Pund-It said that it was difficult to determine whether the posting of videos could put their creators in danger.

The drone pilot could be located if the video was live-streamed. “We saw an analogy to the earlier invasion when the Ukrainians targeted Russian troops and officers of high rank using mobile data,” said King. The danger is minimized if the planes record the video and post it later.

Sellnow suggested that videos shared in any context could reveal sensitive information which military leaders would prefer to keep secret.

Sellnow went on to say that “the audience for videos like these is almost always more sophisticated and larger than what most people expect.” The risk of geotagged videos is well-known. “Even with tags removed, it is possible to leak hints about location or individual identity through the visual content.”

Sellnow added that, in the opposite direction, videos of this type can also be strategically shared to confuse enemy forces by providing strategic “disinformation”.

Psychological Warfare Via Social Media

The content that is shared on the internet also becomes part of an exercise in psychological warfare (PSYOP), showing how much death and destruction was caused by a recent assault. According to reports, the invasion was supposed to last three days, but Russian troops arrived in dress uniforms rather than winter clothes. The continued sharing of these videos online by Ukrainian forces can be used to damage enemy morale.

These clips can serve as a warning for other combatants.

King said, “‘Look at how close we are, and you didn’t even notice’.” The Kremlin, on the other hand, could use these videos to send a message to Ukraine’s fighters saying “you cannot win.”

The videos remind us of the “written-up in dispatches”, which used to highlight specific actions taken by soldiers or units. The individual teams in this instance are ensuring that their achievements are recognized.

King suggested that if drones were used for actual attacks they would provide “Gotcha!” bragging rights. bragging rights,” King suggested.

Why Censor the content?

These videos are a great way to showcase the successes of both sides, so it’s unlikely either Russia or Ukraine could completely ban their usage. However, it is possible we could see some efforts to censor some details – perhaps limiting the use of tags that identify a particular unit, as an example.

Sellnow said that censoring videos of glorification is possible. However, sophisticated analysts can determine the location by subtle clues such as topography, or what censors blur or delete. The censorship of videos can lead to unintended results.

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