Since 2019, the Disinformation Coordination Hub -- a platform that unites more than 20 Ukrainian organizations and initiatives -- has worked together to fact-check, counter disinformation, improve media literacy, and conduct strategic communications. The Hub has persevered with its work following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and has continued to facilitate coordination and information exchange among its members, as well as contributing to a “one-voice” policy for countering Russian information attacks. Russian disinformation questions the very right of Ukraine's existence and its choice to continuously build a fully-functioning democracy. The Hub, established by The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has played an integral role in supporting its members and Ukrainian Democracy during this critical period. NDI organizes, plans, coordinates follow ups and facilitates the Hub meetings guided by member organizations' needs. A representative of one Hub member noted that “since the start of the full-scale war, and due to the uncertain environment there was a dramatic shift in possible planning horizons and requests from the key stakeholders. Activities of the Hub were crucial for priority setting, coordination with other disinformation fighters, mainstreaming of strategic communication as well as raising awareness of our work”.
Over the last eight months, the Disinformation Coordination Hub has strengthened its role as an invaluable forum where member organizations openly discuss urgent topics and develop solutions to contribute to Ukraine’s fight against Russian hybrid warfare. Responding to the increasing volume of information attacks observed on social media following the Russian full-scale invasion, Hub members worked together to figure out the best tools for monitoring new and growing social media platforms like Telegram, Viber, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. The Hub is also developing a list of shared ethical principles to ensure that monitoring activities are in line with best practices around personal data protection. This helps the Hub members to identify gaps and sensitivities of using personalized data and adapt their monitoring approaches according to a unified standard.
Another key element of the Hub’s work is to amplify the efforts of monitoring and analysis of disinformation narratives beyond Ukraine. To do this, NDI with its European partners facilitated a partnership between the Hub and the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO), an independent network of fact-checkers and academics, to develop and publicize a joint analysis to compare the narratives spread by Kremlin in Ukrainian, Russian and EU media outlets. All of these efforts together help the Hub and its member civil society groups be at the front lines of the information war and to counter malign attacks.
A victory of the Hub was when it cooperated with the Government of Ukraine to plan a major communication campaign targeting audiences in Ukraine and around the world. This promoted Ukraine’s image as a champion of fighting disinformation and an advocate for increased cooperation with large social media platforms. The Government of Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communication and the Hub developed and published a one-voice policy on cooperation with Big Tech companies against disinformation and fake news. The leadership of the Center for Strategic Communication noted that “since the full-scale invasion of Russia, the Hub was a key platform for discussing and coordinating crucial areas of work and some strategic events with the civil society stakeholders. The Hub is a valuable tool for stock-taking, [and] it did help the Center to adjust our activities to the wartime realities. It was also instrumental in building bridges between the Government and civil society. Due to cooperation with the Hub, the Center successfully drafted actionable agenda items tailored for each Big Tech company, which was a useful addition to the policy paper.”
Looking forward, in the coming months NDI will assist the Hub as it expands beyond Kyiv-based organizations to include new, emerging grassroots initiatives throughout the country in the common fight against Russian disinformation. This will strengthen the overall community of information integrity actors, while also enabling more efficient detection and countering of localized information attacks which are a growing trend the Hub is observing.
Authors: NDI Ukraine’s Counter Disinformation Team: Yulia Kuzmenko, Vitaliy Rybak, Yaryna Odynak
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.