Misleading social media posts about the Ukranian conflict are proliferating, and Christians are just as likely to be misled as anyone else. Steve Cox believes each of us has a duty to verify images and videos before sharing them
From TikTok videos of tanks in Belogorod to Telegram clips of strikes near Kyiv, social media footage is playing a key role in the news coverage of the Ukraine war. But how certain are we that these horrible images of war are true and accurate?
Videos of Russian fighters allegedly entering Ukraine territory were found to be military exercises over some remote part of Russia. Even those poignant pictures of Ukrainians praying in the street (above) have now been confirmed as old images.
One major news channel trying to find its way through this ‘fog of war’ is CNN. They have been monitoring the constant stream of information using several tools to filter through the noise to ‘geolocate’ devices that help to verify what is accurate and what isn’t.
Using Twitter lists of local video aggregators, influencers and experts from something called the Open Source Intelligence Community (OSINT), CNN are taking steps to make sure the cable news channel is up to date with information that is trustworthy.
How to check
Mainstream outlets such as CNN, BBC, and Sky are blessed with correspondents and reporters in far-flung corners of the world. They play a crucial role in bringing truthful and accurate information that you and I can trust. Sometimes, they get it wrong. But, when it comes to issues like war, famine and natural disasters, these platforms are far more trustworthy than much of what is indiscriminately shared on social media.
How can you and I navigate our way through the daily social media maelstrom of confusing information and views? How can I trust what I am reading and seeing is accurate, and not an invention cooked up by a tyrannical regime or even some lonely person in their bedroom?
Well, here’s the good news. You don’t have to be a geek to check what you’re reading and seeing on social media is accurate.
Start by checking if the video is an old one. Some sites include the timecodes, which is a big giveaway. Another check is to look at the weather in the video. Does it fit with the weather forecast, or live reporting from the same spot? You can do this by visiting a number of different weather apps and sites.
Another simple check is take a look at what’s in the video or picture. Can you see any landmarks, a church, a bridge, a monument, a factory? Then, go to Google Earth and check out if what you see is accurate.
When Christian leaders get it wrong
If you’ve been duped by a social media post, then you are in good company. Sadly, some leading Christian voices on social media have shared posts that are just plain wrong. These leaders often have huge followings, meaning they're able to reach millions with the truth of the gospel. But when they're caught spreading false news to this same audience, it damages both their reputation and the witness of us as Christians.
Whether you have 13 or 130,000 followers, the principle is the same: always check before sharing. As Christians, we can, and should, be leading the way in this.
As Christians our social media posts should be gracious and seasoned with salt, so that we may know how we ought to answer each person. Let us not be deceived, and avoid bad company that seeks to ruin good morals. Let us be quick to read, watch and hear but slow to write, speak and respond with emotion, especially anger. Let no corrupting words come from your mobile device or laptop, but only that which is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who read and hear.
Paraphrasing these familiar verses from 1 Corinthians 15, James 1 and Ephesians 4 brings home the importance of how you, and I, should act when using social media.
step back, check out what is true and invite the Holy Spirit to guide your response
Does your social media post reflect the aroma of Christ; that beautiful fragrance that only Christ can give; the fruit of the Holy Spirit that brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and, yes, self-control?
When checking into your favourite social media platform, I encourage you to take a step back, check out what is true and invite the Holy Spirit to guide your words and response. You may be surprised when the person of the Holy Spirit tells you not to post anything at all.
When asked about the end times, Jesus warned his disciples not to be led astray. He told them that they would hear of wars, and rumours of wars, but not to be alarmed. (Matthew 24:6). Whatever we do, in word or deed, let us do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and be wise with our social media words and images.