Forewarned Is Forearmed. An Online Course on Disinformation Presented at UCMC

On September 9, the press center of Ukraine Crisis Media Center hosted a presentation of the online course “Disinformation: types, tools and countermeasures”. The course was developed by the main experts at UCMC, Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, StopFake, and Euromaidan Press and is already available on the Prometheus platform.

One of the authors of the course, Oleksandra Tsekhanovska, the Head of the Hybrid Warfare Analytical Group, noted that the course was the result of a long and meticulous work of a whole group of experts in the field. The course consists of five modules, which not only contain the conceptual construct (interrelation of the concepts of disinformation, propaganda, fake, and narrative) but also provide practical skills for recognizing these phenomena and counteracting them.

Tsekhanovska noted that not only Russia but also other state (China, Iran) and non-state actors systematically disseminate disinformation. This activity becomes especially effective due to the repetition of theses through different channels

How this works is explained separately in the course on the examples of disinformation about gender issues and the dissemination of conspiracy theories. Fakes are incorporated into narratives that are then spread through media and become factors in political life.

“The practical module of our course illustrates perfectly how this happens and why everyone’s information security eventually fits into the information security of the state,” Tsekhanovska stressed.

Co-author of the course Olha Yurkova, one of the founders of the project, stressed the importance and comparable underestimation of fact-checking work. According to her, people tend to overestimate their critical thinking skills. However, over time, fakes are firmly rooted in their minds – accumulative effect comes into action. And it is boosting of special skills that can prevent this – because usually the creation of fake news is based on the same “playbooks”.

“Forewarned is forearmed. If a person understands how this mechanism works, it will be easier for them to recognize it in other situations, not related to Russian disinformation, but politics in general or disinformation of other players,” Yurkova said.

Stanislav Korolkov, an analyst with the partner organization Internews Ukraine, said that another anti-fake course would be presented soon with a more applicable nature. Its considerable attention will be paid to digital safety and hygiene, as well as skills in working with statistics and verifying sources of information (including photos and videos).

The course “Disinformation: types, tools and countermeasures” became available on the Prometheus platform at a symbolic moment at 9 am on September 9. The authors pointed out that all students who master more than 60% of the tasks based on the results of the modules will receive a free certificate of completion. The course will be especially interesting for journalists, students and teachers of social studies, public activists, and government officials.