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I have been following some news websites, Wikipedia and Telegram to know updates about the war in Ukraine.

In Wikipedia, I saw this piece of text, which I am sending a cropped screenshot.

uk

While the Russian MoD Telegram channel updated something like this on 3rd September.

rus

These two pieces of texts don't contrast each other directly, though both are kind of glorifying different parties.

Which is a source of a truthful and unbiased update for the war in Ukraine and how can we be sure about it?

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    how is this different from politics.stackexchange.com/q/72928 ? Sep 4, 2022 at 19:15
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    "how are we sure about it?" Not only a hotly debated philosophical question but also a very important practical one. Short of traveling there and checking yourself, you can gather different sources, read critical, search for hidden agendas and use common sense or existing expert knowledge. Sep 4, 2022 at 21:05
  • I think this is a philosophical paradoxon: To judge ("the most unbiased news") you must know the truth. But how to get the truth?
    – U. Windl
    Sep 4, 2022 at 23:10
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    @ronnor About that southfront.org objectivity... Aug 23 While the Ukrainian military continues its terrorist attacks against civilians. Feb 28 : Russian military aviation controls the skies over Ukraine. 🤣🤣🤣 Better military analysts don't spend much time calling either opponents names, in case you don't know. Just the military facts. Sep 6, 2022 at 16:54
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    In fact, southfront.org has a wikipedia entry where one can examine their credibility. Spoilers: it's Russia registered and considered a fake news site. Kinda like recommending users to get their news from Breitbart. Sep 6, 2022 at 19:37

2 Answers 2

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The simple fact is that you can't know for sure.

You can ask if the source has any known bias, if the source has a history of being honest, if it has any reason to lie in this particular situation.

The Russian source clearly has a bias, it is pro-Russia! This does not mean that everything that the Russian MOD says is false.

The UK MoD has also clearly indicated its support for Ukraine, so it is a biased source. But as the UK is not one of the belligerents, it may be less biased. The UK Mod also has a history of being less than completely honest(!)

There are other news agencies, but their reporters may not be able to get first-hand intelligence, the reporter is not biased but if they are restricted, they might not get the full picture. And the situation is complex. There may be half truths, opinion-reported-as-fact, truth-but-not-the-whole-truth and outright lies in the reporting.

So what you ask for might seem simple but it isn't. There is no way to know what the truth is in any war situation in which the belligerents are willing to lie (which is probably the case in every single war).

Sometimes historians can figure out what really happened, but it may be years after the fact.

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    Sometimes historians can figure out what really happened but what actual sources are used by historians then and how do they now these sources are not biased? history is written by the victors saying exists for a reason
    – The Norman
    Sep 25, 2022 at 14:59
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    @TheNorman Over time historians tend to have access to more sources than contemporary reporters as secrets are declassified, archives are opened, and so on. And in particular they often eventually get access to internal military reports themselves, which tend to be reporting facts rather than hopes or propaganda. (Both militaries probably have a very precise idea of their materiel losses since the start of the war, but neither is interested in reporting this right now.)
    – cjs
    Oct 25, 2022 at 14:23
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    @cjs Honestly, neither military has a very precise idea of their actual losses. There is a lot of chaos during war. Each respective military will have the best and most accurate overall picture, but during war, it isn't precise. Precision in the details comes after the fact. Just look at previous wars initial reports versus confirmed reports of activity. Sometimes it can vary quite a bit.
    – David S
    Sep 13, 2023 at 23:03
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Fake number one: you are helpless to recognize fakes. It is not so.

Wikipedia has articles over the most of the sources worth to consider. You can check such article for who owns the source, and what is the reputation, history of it. If it is a web based source, simply put the domain name into Wikipedia search box. No Wikipedia article usually means it is a little known source, these are generally unreliable. But even more unreliable are state owned media outlets.

  • For the sides at war, everything they publish about the enemy losses is void. Use domain name (ru? ua?) for the quick pre-check.

  • For community sites and social media posts, always check the sources, if they exist, do they write that is claimed and how reputable do they are. If the source is in the language you do not read well, use Google translate.

  • For Wikipedia, cross check articles in more than one language. This often means different list of sources.

  • For various "proving photos", demand the source and do some analysis. If very low resolution, why? Has it been edited? Here are some hints what to look at. These proofs are not as good as they look: lots of posted material may be forged or irrelevant. Fake photos are about the easiest fakes to disclose, Google image search is often enough to see that the photo is not relevant.

  • For video, is it complete or "non essential" parts have been removed?

  • For the "disclosed document", check its structure. Does it follow all rules of the formal writing of the institution?

  • For interview, does the person being interviewed actually said that was later claimed by the journalist?

  • "I have heard a man saying that... " - are there any attempts seen to find at least one more person confirming the same story? Or any other attempts to verify it?

  • Phone number is seen: where does it actually point to? Does it have the international prefix, does this prefix make sense? Does the number grouping matches expected for that country?

  • Non relevant detail is seen in "disclosing photo": say a poster, advertising a new product. When it was the last time this product was new? Now? Five year ago?

  • Pay attention into language. Is it written "defense" or "defence"? Both are correct, but this depends on the dialect. Does the dialect matches expected?

  • Always search for the historical context of the events described: what happened before? After? Biased sources often omit even widely known context.

  • Ask yourself, how do the source knows the information and what is they motivation for sharing it.

StopFake.org is a project that specialises on identifying fakes. For each of many fakes listed, it provides explanation how it was identified, as well as general overview of the suitable methods of analysis.

Finally, do not consume the information passively. Do not listen for a radio, TV while doing and thinking irrelevant things, that is frequently a habit. With most of your mental power not involved, you can be easily transformed into any kind of zombie the media outlet prefers by just repeating claims without any argumentation.

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