The Ukraine Conflict Is Not Your Chance To Go Viral

Going back to the pop culture references, many on Twitter are making memes that show Zelensky photoshopped as various Marvel characters, including Captain America. Some people have decided he resembles actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the Marvel films, and have “cast” the actor in the role of Zelensky in…I guess…a war film? “Fans cast Jeremy Renner as Zelensky in fantasy Ukraine invasion film: Too soon?” a New York Post headline read. “Fans…. of what……..,” one person responded.

Sellers on Etsy are even getting in on the action. On the platform, you can buy mugs with Zelensky’s face on them surrounded by the colors of the Ukrainian flag, a T-shirt with a quote from the president in flowery script, another with Zelensky’s face on the famous Barack Obama “Hope” logo, or one that reads “President Zelenskyy, my hero.” Have we learned nothing from the doomed “Cuomosexual” meme? No politician needs this level of online fervor and thirst surrounding him, and Zelensky has enough on his plate. “Not sure twitter will survive a milkshake duck of this magnitude,” one person wrote in response to the hero worship.

Over on TikTok, things aren’t much better. As NPR reported over the weekend, the platform has been inundated with videos purportedly from the front lines of the conflict that actually show footage of “old conflicts, scenes from movies and even video game battles as if showing on-the-ground live footage.”

Media Matters even called out TikTok for “facilitating” the spread of misinformation, writing, “Videos of missile strikes, explosions, and gunfire exchanges are garnering millions of views, even though some contain older footage unrelated to this conflict or videos manipulated through audio to capitalize on an anxious audience.”

It blamed one of the app’s key features, the ability to reuse someone else’s audio, as “a major source of digital misinformation,” as it allows people to upload new, false videos using old audio. One of the videos Media Matters called out, which purported to be from Ukraine and had more than 5 million views, used audio from a 2020 clip of an explosion in Beirut.

“TikTok’s platform architecture is amplifying fear and permitting misinformation to thrive at a time of high anxiety,” the watchdog wrote. “Though it’s crucial that the public remain informed of such high-stakes situations, it seems that the platform’s design is incompatible with the needs of the current moment.”