For weeks, Russia’s military assault on Ukraine has been complemented by full-fledged information warfare. The Kremlin has propagandised Russian state media, and is trying to control the narrative online too.
We’ve seen a bombardment of “imposter content” circulating – including fake news reports and deepfake videos – while Ukranians and the rest of the world have scrambled to find ways to tell the real story of the invasion.
The instant messaging app Telegram has surfaced as one of the most important channels through which to do so. But what is it about Telegram that has millions flocking to it amid the chaos?
What is Telegram?
Telegram is one of the most popular social apps in Ukraine and Russia, and has been since before the invasion began. It’s a free cloud-based app that allows users to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, audio and other files.
The platform was first created in 2013 by Russian-born tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov – a figure who has butted heads with the increasingly authoritarian Russian state on numerous occasions.
Now Telegram is providing some clarity in a foggy environment of (mostly Russian) disinformation. It has even been a go-to point of contact for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
How does it work?
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- Come Back Alive is one of the largest charitable foundations that supports Ukrainian soldiers, founded by the IT specialist Vitaliy Deynega. The organization collected more than 210 million UAH (more than $7M) in 2014. According to Na chasi, the Patreon page Come Back Alive is in the top ten projects by the number of financial donations.
- Army SOS, which develops drones;
- Everybody Can, an organization that supports internally displaced people;
- Help on the Ministry of Defense website.