“A Special Operation”: A Quantitative Approach to Dissecting and Comparing Different Media Ecoystems’ Coverage of the Russo-Ukrainian War

Published in 17th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 2023

Recommended citation: Hanley, Hans WA, Deepak Kumar, and Zakir Durumeric. ""A Special Operation": A Quantitative Approach to Dissecting and Comparing Different Media Ecoystems’ Coverage of the Russo-Ukrainian War." Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. Vol. 17. 2023.

In this work, we present a quantitative analysis of the differences in coverage of the Russo-Ukrainian War amongst three different news ecosystems (Western, Chinese, Russian). By utilizing differential sentiment analysis, normalized pointwise mutual information metric, and partially labeled Dirichlet allocation, we extract the most distinctive topics and words associated with each media ecosystem. We find that while the Western press outlets have focused on the military and humanitarian aspects of the war, Chinese news media have concentrated on the diplomatic and economic consequences of the war. Simultaneously Russian propaganda outlets have directed their attention to justifications behind the Russian government’s purported mission to “denazify and demilitarize” Ukraine. Analyzing these different ecosystems, we find the presence of several Russian disinformation narratives in the articles of several Chinese outlets; we thus finally measure the degree to which Russian news media has influenced Chinese coverage of the Russian invasion across news articles, Twitter, and the Chinese social media app Weibo. We find that since Russia’s invasion, Chinese state media outlets have increasingly cited Russian news outlets as sources and spread Russian disinformation narratives.