Without TikTok and Google Maps, would the war in Ukraine have been the same?

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, much of the information has not been provided by spies or satellites, but in real time by open access sources, writes this data journalist fromEl País. What profoundly change the face of this war.

“I believe we were the first to see the invasion. And we saw her on an app [de calcul d’itinéraire].” At 3:15 a.m. on February 24, open source scholar Jeffrey Lewis spotted a traffic jam on the Russian border with Ukraine while looking at Google Maps, and he tweeted: “Someone is on the move.” It was the Russians.

We talk a lot about disinformation, but what is striking, with Ukraine, is rather the over-information: we know a lot about the conflict, thanks to free access and real-time sources.

Daniel Johnson, journalist and former infantry officer, was quick to point out:

Only twenty-four hours have passed since Russia began invading Ukraine, but we already have access to more information about what is going on there than we would have had in a week about the war. from Iraq.”

After fourteen days, for example, the Wikipedia article [en anglais] on the conflict already included 26,000 words, which represents two hours of reading.

The internet and technology dissipate the “fog of war”, a military term for the climate of uncertainty that surrounds a conflict. And this is important for two reasons: on the one hand, military intelligence is evolving, on the other hand, it could make Vladimir Putin lose a battle.

Indeed, much of the important information during a war is no longer provided by spies or military satellites, but by technological means accessible to all, such as Google’s real-time traffic maps. Hence the proliferation of intelligence experts who use open access data (OSINT, for open-source intelligence), collect and analyze this information, and finally make decisions based on it.

The hundreds of videos proliferating on social media provide a wealth of detail. Thus, on TikTok, we were able to follow the deployment of Russian troops on the border before the invasion of Ukraine. Today we have images of what is happening in the country,


Kiko Llaneras

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Founded in 1976, six months after Franco’s death, “Le Pays” is the most read newspaper in Spain. A centre-left daily, it belongs to the Spanish editorial group Prisa. At the end of 2013, elpais.com launched two new editions to


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