Statement on Russia's Invasion of Ukraine
The Information Crisis
March 7, 2022

There are many ways to view the war: Ukraine vs Russia, Western Europe vs Eastern Europe, Democracy vs Autocracy, or the American-led order vs the emerging multi-polar world. Ultimately, it’s the oldest battle in the book: truth vs lies.

AverPoint means the “place to aver,” a space where you assert something to be true. Our mission is to empower free individuals and communities to find this place, the truth, in today’s age of disinformation. We’re a news app that helps individuals build their media literacy skills and navigate today’s information crisis. That information crisis, unraveling free societies around the world, was accelerated in many ways by Vladamir Putin.

Since the early 2000s, he concluded his only way to counter the universal values of the American-led order was to attack the idea of truth itself. If free citizens can’t figure out what’s real and what’s false, they can’t form a shared reality with people who look, speak, or pray in different ways. Confused and scared, they’ll shrug at the world’s chaos and seek the protection of their tribal strongman.

Over the past decade, the rise of populist autocrats in America, India, Brazil, central Europe, the Philippines, Myanmar, and more has shown the awesome power of the tribe. Their democratic backslide moves them closer to authoritarian China, the theocratic states of the Islamic world, and other places where freedom was never firm and “truth” was enforced by the state. We’re seeing in plain sight something we hate to admit: one’s particular race, culture, tradition, and loyalty to local hierarchy can easily overwhelm one’s reason and faith in universal values.

Putin knew that a post-Soviet Russia couldn’t directly dominate the world, but he could help fragment the connected, universal world into small, regional powers. To attack the idea of universal truth, the glue that connects the free citizens of the free world, he developed the digital disinformation playbook. He refined it first on his own citizens, then the smaller post-soviet republics, and eventually in Ukraine. Then he expanded to western Europe, America, and beyond.

The playbook was much less about censoring information, and much more about exploiting the free world’s open information systems - suddenly made more open by the internet. They took the age-old techniques of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to undermine the authenticity of any message and every legitimate source, replacing one common reality with many tribal realities. The Russian military perfected digital techniques to first understand each person’s biases, and to then, using armies of both bots and human trolls, intensify these biases. The playbook found allies and users in each country, summoning nativist movements as shortcuts to political power.

But this playbook has a fatal flaw: free individuals can choose not to be deceived. They can understand the techniques of propaganda: confirmation bias, tribal bias, and amygdala hijack. They can choose to become “media literate” on the open internet, even without the guardrails of top-down gatekeepers. They can build habits to consume healthy information and the skill to critically evaluate information. Ukrainians and many of their neighbors in the Baltic states have shown they are no longer prey to the disinformants’ playbook. They navigated the false flag operations, false claims of peaceful “military exercises,” false historical narratives, and more. They learned to evaluate information, and find reality. They inspire our efforts to build the news experience and tools that help both individuals and communities become resilient to lies.

AverPoint stands firmly with Ukraine, and we stand firmly with truth as the only basis for a free, peaceful, and prosperous world.