Topline

Twitter has deleted several tweets by the Russian Embassy to Britain on Thursday alleging an attack on Mariupol (a city in southeastern Ukraine) was staged Wednesday. They claimed that there was no credible evidence that a pregnant victim had been photographed was a crisis actor, but it was not clear from Twitter.

Here are some key facts

Twitter removed tweets that targeted an alleged victim of the hospital strike from the embassy’s official account at about 11:30 a.m. EST—a rare move for the social media platform which has long resisted calls to remove posts from official government accounts.

One Twitter spokesperson said SME in a statement: “We took enforcement action against the Tweets [SME] referenced as they were in violation of the Twitter Rules, specifically our Hateful Conduct and Abusive Behavior policies related to the denial of violent events.”

The Russian embassy tweeted Thursday the maternity hospital in Mariupol was “non-operational” and thus didn’t injure any civilians, contradicting Ukrainian authorities’ claims the Russian strike on the hospital left three dead and 17 more wounded, with doctors, expecting mothers and children among the victims.

The New York Times Independently verified footage showing the devastation of Mariupol’s hospital and the injuries to victims was shown. Russia claims the strike didn’t harm civilians as Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, stated that the Ukrainian military had evacuated patients from the hospital just hours prior.

Marianna Pogurskaya, a pregnant victim of the attack was identified as the next step by the Embassy. saying she wore “very realistic make-up” to embellish head wounds and “played roles of both pregnant women on the photos,” with its sole evidence being that Podgurskaya runs a somewhat popular Instagram account and was photographed twice at the scene of the hospital bombing.

The victim is thought to have an Instagram account that boasts 24,000 followers. She appears visibly pregnant on several Instagram posts and tags Mariupol with her location.

Chief Critic

Many users called on Twitter to take action to take down the Russian embassy’s account following these posts, including Bellingcat researcher Aric Toler, who tweeted, “The clearly fake information is bad enough, but naming her like this is more than enough to boot the embassy’s account off of the platform. As if her and her unborn child nearly dying isn’t bad enough, she’ll likely be harassed for years now because of this accusation.” Conspiracy researcher Mike Rothschild joined Toler, writing, “Time for Twitter to deplatform all these propaganda accounts.”

The Key Background

The embassy’s bizarre accusations were part of a quickly changing Russian narrative on the Mariupol hospital strike. Kremlin spokesperson Dmittry Peskov told Reuters Thursday “Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets,” and he didn’t have “clear information” on the hospital strike. Shortly after, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called claims of the attack “pathetic,” claiming there were no civilian victims because the hospital “long ago became a base for extremists.” The disinformation technique of claiming victims are “crisis actors” is a well-known one. Fake videos showing actors prepping to play the role of Ukrainian victims were circulated on social media earlier in the month.

Tangent

Twitter and social media sites have all responded in various ways to stop the spread of Russian propaganda. Twitter pledged to identify links to Russian state media. Meta stopped suggesting state media links via Facebook and Instagram. TikTok stated it would suspend any content from Russia. TikTok continues to allow Russian-linked TikTok accounts to post content on TikTok. SME reported Monday.

Additional Reading

Two Russian State Media accounts continue to post on TikTok, despite Content BanSME)

Russia changes its stance regarding hospital bombings condemned all over the globe (Reuters).

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