The war in Ukraine is causing a flood of misinformation and fake news

In Serbia, the Twitter account of Youth of JAZAS, an NGO committed to HIV support and prevention, was taken back by an unknown person on February 25. Tweets from the hacked account compared Ukraine to AIDS and claimed Russia was “the cure”. The next day, after regaining control of the account, Jeunesse de JAZAS apologized for tweets.

In another episode, several web portals in Serbia made false statements regarding a change in the program of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. Online media has wrongly linked the program changes regarding the works of Russian composer Tchaikovsky to the war in Ukraine.

On February 25, Dušanka Majkić, a member of the Bosnian parliament of the main Bosnian Serb party, the Alliance of the Independent Social Democratic Party, SNSD, tweeted that Bosnia could suffer the same consequences as the attacked Ukraine if it joined the NATO. “In March 2021, Moscow promised to react if Bosnia took further steps towards NATO. Don’t say you haven’t been warned,” the tweet read.

In Hungary, fake news and lies about the Russian-Ukrainian war have led to political clashes and smear campaigns targeting political opponents.

The country’s pro-government media are struggling to move away from their old pro-Russian narrative. On the one hand, public media, pro-government media and some uncritical experts reported false statements from the Kremlin on Ukraine. These include the fact that Ukrainian troops entered Russia first, that the Ukrainian nation does not exist, and that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky is comparable to Hitler.

Even after the Russian attacks began, some media still claimed that Russia had no intention of attacking Ukraine. Various Facebook pages linked to the ruling Fidesz party are also still spreading Russian propaganda. On the other hand, government politicians and pro-government media have wrongly claimed that opposition politicians want to send soldiers to Ukraine, plunging Hungary into war with Russia.

Finally, an element of misinformation about the Ukrainian conflict has been widely shared online in Bosnia and Hungary. Hundreds of thousands of users watched a video on Facebook in less than 24 hours, apparently showing a military plane being attacked by air defense. The message suggests that the video is footage from the war in Ukraine. In reality, the video was from a war simulation computer game. Raskrinkavanje Fact-Checking Portal clarified that the video was taken from the video game Arma 3, a realistic game released in September 2013 simulating military conflicts.

Religion and nationalism drive online attacks and hate speech in Bosnia and North Macedonia

Ethnic and political tensions, always characteristic of the Bosnian environment, are exacerbated by episodes of nationalist rhetoric in parliament. In addition to secessionist threats from Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, his Croatian counterpart has added to the tensions.

About Eleanor Blackburn

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