Zelenskyy's use of social media to sway the public's opinion about Russia
Exactly four weeks into the Russian-Ukrainian war, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to assure his country’s citizens that the military operation is going according to plan. Whether or not this is true, the reality is that Russia is losing the information war on social media.
Although Putin has successfully weaponized social media in the past, the majority of the international community has condemned the aggression in ways that Russia’s leader has not been able to counter. This global condemnation has been so strong, it has persuaded hundreds of companies to cut ties with Russia. In the social media realm, organizations like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Twitter, and TikTok quickly took steps to block access to state-funded Russian media such as RT and Sputnik.
Although Russia tried to justify the invasion by making claims about Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” and “drug addicts,” most of these efforts were dismissed and even ridiculed. Given this reality, Russia blocked access to platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and heavily restricted the use of Twitter. President Putin also signed the fake news law, which punishes people with fines of up to 15 years in prison for spreading “false information” about all Russian state bodies. As a result of Russia’s decision to crack down on what the media and the people using these platforms can say, major social media platforms, such as TikTok suspended most of their services in the country.. According to European researchers, the platform is currently blocking access to 95 percent of the video content that was available to Russian users before the block.
Whereas Putin’s reputation has been tarnished during this past month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has used public relations to his advantage, walking through the streets of his country letting his people know that he “is here.” In a video recording, he said that “we will not lay down any weapons. We will defend our state because our weapons are our truth.”
During a European Union leader’s conference call to discuss sanctions against Russia, Zelenskyy joined and within five minutes of his speech, he was able to shift the mood of the room completely. His plea to the leaders to stand by him in this war left everyone emotional. As a former actor, Zelenskyy’s talent to make emotional appeals has done nothing but help Ukraine in this war. Zelenskyy’s appearance on the Ukrainian version of Dancing With the Stars shows his ability to put on emotion on demand. His facial expression and ability to act like everything was fine after making a major mistake in front of everyone is impressive. He can truly put on a great performance!
In 2022, wars are seen through social media. We have all seen how a wide range of platforms has played significant roles in other recent international conflicts, such as the Arab Spring revolutionary wave that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s.
Back then, we were able to see first-person perspectives of the demolished cities from within. Now, with things like Instagram Live or enhanced video capabilities, the world is able to see in real-time from citizens what is going on in these countries… Zelenskyy’s direct access to people around the world through social media and his ability to inform the public about this crisis is an important reason that helps explain why countries around the world are deciding to sanction Russia as a result of their war with Ukraine.
By Isabel Ricon
Isabel is a New Jersey native and moved across the country to attend San Diego State University. Currently residing in San Diego, Isabel is working towards her bachelors degree in Public Relations while also minoring in Photography. Her professional experience includes doing marketing work for Dang Brother Pizza Catering and assisting the CEO of Chrome City PR Alexandria Ott with any and all public relations tasks. Isabel hopes to one day become the president of a PR agency or even open an agency of her own.