Telegram: Social Media Winner in Russia-Ukraine Conflict

“Special military operation”, “Russian Invasion”, “Unprovoked aggression by Russia”, and “Russia’s war” are some of the words used to describe Russia’s military engagement in Ukraine. It does not matter what you call it, this regional conflict created global ramifications. Starting on 24th February 2022, this war has already entered into the 5th month and there are no signs of it ending very soon.

Being far away from the region, many people sitting in different parts of the world are glued to their television screens to find out information about this conflict. So many people were disappointed with the control of the narrative in mainstream media. For them, social media became the main source of information. In the pool of all available social media platforms, Telegram emerged as a clear winner in providing information from the war zone.

I did not use Telegram before. In the midst of finding information, I have observed that many bloggers and independent journalists are using Telegram extensively.

So, what’s so special about Telegram? After using it for more than 2 months, I have come up with a couple of points based on my own observations.

  1. Accessibility

For an outsider with little knowledge of Slavic languages, Russian & Ukrainian languages will look very similar. Being part of the Soviet Union, many people in Ukraine, and Belarus had a longstanding relationship with Russia. Why is it relevant?

Popular social media channels like Twitter and Facebook were working under restricted conditions in Russia since 2014. That leads to the emergence of local media platforms like VK, and Telegram. Many of the other social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc) ceased to operate in Russia once the conflict started. The number of users of Telegram jumped manifold in Russia.

Number of Telegram users before and after the banning of other social media accounts in Russia

(https://www.statista.com/statistics/1297985/social-media-users-before-and-after-bans-russia/)

2. No Censorship/Lack of Oversight

“Censorship” is a difficult word for many people. Instead, they will use the lack of “critical oversight” about the information available through Telegram. Other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube) are working to moderate the content, but there have been allegations of them promoting the pro-Ukrainian narrative. Regardless of which part you want to believe, both pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian sources are using Telegram extensively.

There is no limit on circulating sensitive information and graphic footage on Telegram. People shared pictures of dead soldiers, burned corpses, and racial slurs coming directly from the war zone. Whether it is the right thing to do, I do not know. But this is easier to do on Telegram than on any other social media platform.

Format & Layout

The user interface of Telegram allows for sharing a large amount of information. One can easily share a large video & image file on Telegram. With longer word limits, it also beats Twitter in some aspects.

In the end, I can only say that violence in any form is bad and war is worse. I condemn any type of violence. I tried to be analytical in my blog post and I hope the war will end soon.

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