Tetiana Popova: "It is important to understand that the Russians will not stand still…" 01/29/2021 15:29:00. Total views 2354. Views today — 0.

As it turned out, we have not many information security experts during the hybrid war between Russia and Ukraine. There are only a few non-committed experts in this area. One of them is former Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine (2014-2015) Tetiana Popova. OstroV talked with her about the dominance of Medvedchuk's channels on the Ukrainian information TV market, about whether it is necessary to build TV towers in Donbas in the Internet age and why Poroshenko's channel promotes OPFL.

- Tetiana, when we talk about information security, everyone has an association with fakes. But in fact, this sphere is much broader. What else relates to information security issues?

- For example, amplification, what is called "swinging"(is quite actively used now in the USA), when different points of view are specially set on fire, they are winded up in social networks, people are in their own filter bubble, and when they then come across on the streets, or in some social network, where there are opponents and supporters of some idea, conflicts may arise, including murders.

- Does the manipulation of opinion polls relate to this area?

- Any manipulations refer to information disorder. It is also misinformation, outright fakes or outright untruths told by some participants. There is also such a thing as "informational influence".

- This is an entering of the enemy narratives to the information space.

- Yes, this is when a certain agenda is promoted. This can be done to influence the far right or far left with the aim of amplification and in order to convey your point of view.

- Now there are many fighters against fakes, but all the other categories you listed, - is someone engaged in them in the Ukrainian state?

- It seems to me that there are not many people in Ukraine who are deeply immersed in this problem. Because this is still a narrow area. This is of interest to journalists, partly - to the military, partly - to the special services and, of course, to our Western partners, because we are at the forefront in this regard. They test us (special services of the Russian Federation - ed.), test new elements, and then, all this is further applied in the same America.

- But, nevertheless, if there is a problem of manipulation of opinion polls and imposition of narratives beneficial to the Russian Federation - the aggressor state to Ukraine, then who is involved in preventing these threats?

- I think that nobody at large. Because these are quite new challenges, especially when it comes to social networks. For example, if we are talking about information manipulations, I recently made a post in my FB about the Sputnik vaccine, when a protest campaign took place in Izium. In fact, it was against the tariffs, but a local former deputy of the Communist Party immediately appeared, beginning to say that "we will buy the Sputnik vaccine". These were pensioners who protested against the tariffs, no one even thought that Sputnik had an age limit of 60 years. And he began to say that "we will use Sputnik, we do not want American vaccines". And these women were forced to repeat the same words. So, it is highlighted by a major news outlet that is in the top 5 online media in Ukraine, which initially publishes this event under the headline "Women in Izium protested for the Sputnik vaccine".

After I pointed it out to the editor-in-chief and the news editor, they corrected the beginning of this heading to: "Former communist called for the use of the Sputnik vaccine". But editors-in-chief of other media outlets appeared in my own comments: of European Pravda and the Reuters employee, who wrote: we do not understand at all how this could have appeared. That is, this is a strange news that appeared in the media… Because if you read the dumps (screenshots - ed.) of Surkov and Co., which have been published since 2017, we can say that money was usually paid for such news.

- That is why I want to return you to the question again - who in our state generally deals with information security issues in a broad sense? Formerly, for example, there was the Ministry of Information Policy - did it deal with these issues?

- If I remember correctly, one of the deputies was made responsible for information security. I do not know what he actually did. I have not seen his work… It seems to me that there is a department in the SBU that deals with this…

- Forces of special operations?

- No, the special operations forces, the military are definitely not doing this. There is a department for the protection of statehood in the SBU, they are probably doing something, but this is classified information. Being a Deputy Minister, I may have crossed paths with them at several forums or trainings, but I do not know the details, to be honest … A person has appeared in the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy now. If I remember rightly, the deputy minister has appeared. But it seems to me that he has more to do with digital.

- How much we can talk about the efficiency of their work, if today we have, in fact, the dominance of pro-Russian media in the information market of Ukraine. At least, - in the TV market?

- Compared to what we had at the beginning of 2014, when 4 or 5 Russian channels were freely broadcasting in all cable networks… We should have already understood from the beginning that the Russians would not stand still. At that moment when we closed the first 4 channels, they registered "Hunting and Fishing" and introduced military programs into it. Or stories about the children of Donbas suddenly appeared in their entertainment program…

- So, you think that the situation is better now than in 2014?

- No, we just need to understand that they will not stand still. They will never stand still! Rather, they were initially present here directly, this opportunity was closed to them. Then they started going through other channels, the entertainment ones. Now there are 80 Russian channels in the banned list of the National Rada, if I remember correctly, there were 70 of them several years ago for sure. They realized it does not work. So they started buying our channels. They have now bought up channels for Medvedchuk. But when the license was nevertheless taken away from 112 under the new government after the change of power (Poroshenko did not take away their illegally existing licenses for digital broadcasting), its ratings dropped. At the same time, other information channels appeared, for example, Akhmetov's, and even our channel UATV Dom, with more information programs. This also took away from them (Medvedchuk's channels - ed.) part of the audience. But it is clear that they are starting to work further, including on such amplification - to swing the situation.

Their methods are being improved with each passing year, and now new challenges have appeared, which should be dealt with in a certain way. And the fight goes on. Right now, the National Council is issuing a warning to NewsOne, if I remember correctly, to Zik and 112. Good presenters have switched from this channel to Ukraine24, which, if I am not mistaken, is now channel number 1 in the information niche. It is still in a closed panel (of audience measurements - ed.), but, in my opinion, it is now the most rated information channel. The ratings of Pryamiy have grown, although, unfortunately, PR of OPFL quite often appears there. The state has created an information channel. That is, this problem, their weight in the information space, will gradually decrease. But they are very active on social media. Because social media is the future of media. And we see that Facebook is closing…, it seems to me, Facebook made a report over the last month - they closed more than 30 accounts of the "LNR" resources.

- It is a drop in the bucket, in fact.

- A drop in the bucket, but I see the Facebook and Google reports every month. On average, Facebook closes about 10% of disinformation accounts that works for Ukraine monthly. Similar situation is on YouTube.

There is the Grafica company, it made an interesting report, where it revealed quite strange accounts in general, about 50% of the content of which was devoted to Ukraine. Moreover, it has been a systematic work since 2014. Someone created new accounts from completely hidden emails or resources each time. They created some kind of video, text or image on these resources, posted it on several social networks, and then, this original source was closed. They worked only according to the British time - from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., that is, - minus 3 hours - this is just the beginning of the working day either in Moscow or further to the east. And only on weekdays. And with very poor quality of pictures and videos. It seems that this was done by some military unit, or some students of a military university.

- Just why I am raising this topic now - I was looking through the pre-New Year sociological survey of the Razumkov Centre, where an interesting picture turned out: it is believed in our country that pro-Russian sentiments are more widespread in the regions bordering the Russian Federation. But it turns out that sociology shows that this is not always connected. On the other hand, pro-Russian sentiments are on the map of popularity of information channels - I made this conclusion for myself. I realized that there is more danger here, because Putin has no such popularity in our Sumy and in the Chernihiv oblast, bordering on Russia, as in the south, in the same Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts, which do not border on the Russian Federation. Pro-Russian channels are popular there - they are ours, Ukrainian, but they are actually pro-Russian. I do not see, for example, the reaction of the Ukrainian authorities to this situation. Although you are now saying that someone's license was taken away…

- The share of 112 fell by almost 40%, but this is not enough. Yes, they still have quite a high share in news broadcasting, especially in projection to an adult audience.

- They have websites as well.

- But their websites are not so popular. Websites of these channels. However, for example, Strana.ua is in the top 10 in terms of Internet resources.

In general, the situation with these channels is rather difficult. I recently advised one investment fund whether to buy a channel with a license (by the way, Zik was on sale at that time). I said that I see no reason to invest a lot of money in digital or on-air broadcasting, because the on-air disappeared after that conversation very quickly. And digital are present, but now a good quality product via the Internet can receive similar views indicators.

- Yes, but the Internet is still a more youthful audience that is more passive in elections.

- Time passes by and gradually, over time, this audience will become prevalent. If you look ahead, it is worth opening these interesting projects on the Internet and working more with social networks than investing in the old type of channels.

- Well, a question for you as to the former deputy minister then again. I remember that you were engaged in the opening of transmitting TV towers in the Donbas. So do we now need to build a 150-meter tower in Popasna, if we are looking to the future on the Internet?

- There is a different demography in the adjacent territories, - there is an older population. There are terrestrial channels that broadcast from Donetsk and Luhansk and digital channels that also broadcast from Donetsk and Luhansk. Therefore, of course, these towers need to be completed there. That is, we should give the people who live there at least an alternative. If we cannot block the Russian resource, we should give at least our alternative.

- Another problem that is also indicated in our information space is fake experts. That is, people who do not work anywhere or are registered in fake organizations are invited to certain channels, but they just go from channel to channel and say what they are paid for. Not TV channels, I think, because I went to TV channels, and was never offered any fees, but someone, who promotes them on these broadcasts. How to deal with this?

- Yevgeny Kiselyov told me that when he worked for Pryamiy, at some point, his black list of experts, whom he could not name, grew so much that once a person was brought to him and he asked: "Who are you?" And he says: "The bartender from Boryspil".

- Really? And was acting like an expert? Political, perhaps?

- Yes, he portrayed a political expert. I do not know, maybe he is working at the Boryspil Airport, communicating with someone while at work, and thus ended up on Pryamiy as an expert.

Yes, of course, this is a disadvantage for channels. And, by the way, I think that one of the methods that responsible pro-Ukrainian experts and, especially, representatives of the authorities, can use is to stop rating these pro-Russian channels by their appearance there. So I stopped going there. I was called earlier to Zik, NewsOne and 112. I went there quite regularly until Medvedchuk bought them. Even at some point after the buying, they did not call me from 112 for a month and, suddenly, they started calling again. I decided to see what was happening, why they started calling me. And I saw that for audience 18-54 (this is called a "commercial audience"), when I come to them at 11-12 a.m., they have a higher rating than for the whole week in general. That is, even Rabinovich does not give such a rating for the commercial audience in the evening. I thought: why would I go there and give a rating to an absolutely unclear channel?

- Yes, I also refused to give an interview to the NASH TV channel, because there are terrible manipulations. At the same time, I see opposition deputies, really respected politicians, sitting in its studio…

- You see, politicians have a slightly different job, unlike us, experts. They still have to somehow raise their rating, including to the pro-Russian audience. That is, it makes sense for politicians to go there, especially before the elections. Moreover, I am sure that some politicians even pay money for it.

- Do not you think that the audience of these channels is "pre-charged" for particular content?

- Listen, 112 initially was not very pro-Western, to be honest. Nevertheless, I gave it the highest rating. That is, people were interested in watching my interviews. If people are interested in watching this, then you, basically, can influence these people. The question is that I do not need it: I do not want to go into politics, and I do not want to raise the rating of the channel, views of the owner of which completely contradict mine. But I am not surprised if politicians continue to go there, especially before the elections. This is probably a sensible right step. But I do not understand experts or politicians, who have good indicators and the opportunity to go to other channels, to more rated talk shows, going there. This is a pointless waste of time, and if these politicians even pay money to such channels, then this is a completely crazy idea at all.

- When I watch our television, I get the impression that we have some kind of strange war of everyone against everyone. That is, whatever the authorities do, they will still be scolded. Although, if the authorities always did everything wrong, the country would no longer exist.

- Amplification. This is called amplification.

- But this is the internal agenda.

- This confrontation is being imposed and kindled by the Russians.

- How is it imposed, for example, on the Pryamiy TV channel, which is controlled by President Poroshenko?

- By former President Poroshenko.

- By the 5th president.

- As easy as ABC. First of all, Poroshenko, in fact, is, I think, in behind-the-scenes agreements with OPFL.

- This is noticeable in the content…

- And what is more, they quite often swing the situation at the same time, which raises their informational and political ratings. As well as, for example, Biletsky's "National squads", when they hold a rally with flares near the OPFL office. This also mobilizes the OPFL audience, which sees - "oh, they are beating ours"; and, at the same time, this is a plus for Biletsky in the nationalist audience. Both get into all news programs for free. The same story happens with Mr. Poroshenko. It is profitable for him to tell that he is such a vigorous nationalist and the authorities are wrong about something: "You should buy some kind of vaccine, but not a Russian one", and OPFL says for its part: "Buy a Russian vaccine!". - Both are in the news…

- That is, they deliberately create a conflict situation in the society?

- I think that it is by backroom dealing. It was not for nothing that Medvedchuk traveled and was repeatedly filmed by the Scheme program in the Presidential Administration under Poroshenko.

- Well, then nonetheless: are we winning or losing the information war with Russia?

- Since we are still alive, then yes, we are holding on. But everything is not easy. For example, I really do not like the indicators of the NATO support now. They have decreased in comparison with the indicators of a year or two years ago. It seems to me that this is the result of work of both information channels and paid for publications.

- Moreover, almost 30% of the population in our country considers the events in the Donbas to be an internal conflict. This is a direct narrative of Russia.

- Yes, we still essentially have incomplete work for some of these narratives. It is worse that there are failures in fundamental, vector directions, such as NATO, EU and Democracy, - where the indicators have slightly decreased. Tariffs, the Sputnik vaccine… - these are all just messages, these are not narratives. Narrative and vector are much more important. And here they are hitting the vector with their such small injections of vaccines and all the other stuff. And the vector is very important. Here, it seems to me, this definitely needs to be dealt with. It is necessary to engage in alignment and maintenance of the vector.

- In your opinion, who should do this and how? Is this the revival of the Ministry of Information Policy?

- No way. I initially said that the name was unfortunate. I think that it should still be analogous to what we had in the summer of 2014 - the NSDC Information Center, where all the bodies were coordinated. Then there was an attempt to do this under the President's Office (under Bohdan) last year, something like that, but after he left, the situation died down. Or, perhaps, it began to be done somewhere else, under the NSDC, for example, or they simply stopped doing it.

- Did they try to do this because of the war with Russia or for Servant of the People?

- It was official. I participated there as a member of the Rada for freedom of speech, because I am responsible for the communication of the state authorities. It was simply because we understood that it was necessary. And my recommendation there was that it is necessary. But gradually, due to coronavirus, or something else, there is no such coordination now as we would like.

- I have no questions, maybe you want to say something that we have not touched upon, but this is important?

- It is important to understand that the Russians will not stand still, they will continue to develop even these methods, which we already know and see. Therefore, you need to analyze what is happening and what they are doing very carefully every time, and work with it.

- Does anyone do such an analysis at large?

- The Marshall Foundation, for example, does a similar analysis.

- I mean the state structures, not purely grant ones.

- The Marshall Foundation is located in Washington. Probably, it is sponsored by the Americans. They make regular reports there. I am one of the experts for these reports on Ukraine, because new methods are being tested on us. They (the Americans - ed.) realized just now that the Russians switched from Russian resources - Sputnik and RTM - to work and sponsor local resources just now realized that the Russians switched from Russian resources - Sputnik and RTM - to work and sponsor local resources. They have some newspapers there for Proud boys and Antifa. The newspapers and websites appeared there, of course. And then social networks, of course. That is, everyone there is already on social networks, in some closed groups, and there, of course, it is provoked…

- Have the Americans already realized how deeply the Russians have penetrated their information sphere?

- They have this stage of realizing how deep they have got in right now. Plus, it seems to me (but this is already on the verge of intelligence, I believe) - this is bribery of experts and buying people. When they just buy some person who starts making certain calls, actions and then influences the audience accordingly…

Interviewed by Serhiy Harmash, OstroV