Listen to this article Misinformation About Imminent Nuclear Strike Spread By Verified Twitter Accounts
False Information Spread on Twitter and YouTube
Several verified Twitter accounts and a YouTube channel spread false information last night about an imminent nuclear threat, claiming that Russian military jets were loading nuclear payloads aimed at Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Given the volatile conflict between Russia and Ukraine and Twitter’s eroded moderation policies, including the new Twitter Blue scheme, which allows any bad actor to pay for the same verification that used to be reserved for legitimate news organizations, this misinformation is particularly reckless.
Rumors of Nuclear Response from Russia
The verified Twitter accounts also spread a rumor that Russia was preparing a nuclear response shortly after two drones exploded over the Kremlin. Moscow accused Kyiv and the United States of attempting to assassinate Vladimir Putin. One of the verified accounts, DEFCONWarningSystem, claimed it was “currently evaluating rumors of nuclear movement in Russia” and offered an alert code to the public.
However, we can note that DEFCONWarningSystem is a “private intelligence organization that has been analyzing the threat of nuclear war since 1984” and it has no affiliation with any government agency.
Unverified Rumors Spread on Twitter
Another verified Twitter account, OSINTdefender, spread the unverified rumors that the Russian Strategic Nuclear Force had ordered a heightened state of alert and allegedly preparing air-launched nuclear and conventional weapons at multiple air force bases across Western Russia.
When asked why it was posting a series of unconfirmed rumors about a nuclear war, OSINTdefender defended itself by claiming that it was their “duty” as an OSINT/Information Aggregation Account to post such information and determine if it was true or false.
Detailed False Claims Made by a Pro-Ukrainian Account
On Twitter, Pro-Ukrainian account Igor Sushko posted a long thread claiming that nuclear weapons were being loaded onto TU-22Ms strategic bombers. Additionally, he provided personal details of the Russian pilots who were supposedly flying the bombers and linked to a YouTube livestream.
Problems with Twitter’s Verification Policies
Twitter’s new verification policies create a problem where accounts such as DEFCONWarningSystem can buy credibility for $8 a month and appear at the top of the algorithm, which is highlighted by this incident.It is important to note that nuclear tensions are high right now, and the Kremlin has been very good at doing its own nuclear threats. Therefore, unverified rumors from Twitter accounts should not be relied upon as credible sources of information regarding nuclear threats.
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