From Engagement to Indifference: Russia is winning the information war in Polish social media and the internet

Instytut Badań Internetu i Mediów Społecznościowych

Analysis of Engagement and Social Sentiments in Poland in the Context of the Conflict in Ukraine and the Influence of Social Media on Public Opinion. Changes in narrative, interest in the topic, growing societal apathy towards the conflict, and potential implications for Poland’s domestic and foreign policy are presented.


Social Sentiments in Poland:

There is an observed decrease in positive sentiments and an increase in negative ones regarding the war in Ukraine. The Polish political class should take note of these changes, especially considering that the grain crisis, discourse on the Volhynia massacre, and Poland’s military support for Ukraine significantly influence these sentiments.

Decline in Overall Engagement: Data indicates a significant decrease in the number of mentions, interactions, and reach of topics related to Ukraine on social media in 2023 compared to 2022. This suggests a declining interest in the Ukraine conflict among internet users.

Fatigue with the War Topic: We observe a progressive fatigue with the conflict among the Western society, reflected in the declining number of mentions and engagement on social media.

Impact of Other International Events: Other significant international events, such as the Hamas attack on Israel, temporarily shifted media and public attention from the Ukraine conflict to other issues.

Role of Social Media in Shaping Opinion: Algorithms of social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have a significant influence on what content is promoted and how it is perceived by users. The presence and growing popularity of pro-Russian content or narratives on these platforms can affect perceptions of the conflict.

Impact on Domestic and Foreign Policy: Changing social sentiments can influence political decisions regarding support for Ukraine. Erosion of societal support for Ukraine may lead to changes in Poland’s foreign policy.

Current State

An analysis of social media discussions regarding the conflict in Ukraine in the years 2022-2023 reveals significant trends and changes in narrative as well as user engagement. In 2023, compared to the previous year, there is a noticeable decrease in the number of mentions (from 25.3 million to 6.4 million) and interactions (from 155.1 million to 44.3 million), indicating a reduction in the intensity of discussions and social engagement. Furthermore, the reach of messages has significantly decreased (from 48.6 billion to 12.1 billion), which may suggest fatigue with the topic of the conflict in both media and society.

The study observed that in 2023, the greatest interest was generated by political events, such as the visits of Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky to Poland, as well as issues related to the blockade of grain transit through Ukraine. This indicates a shift in interest from purely military aspects of the conflict to those with a more political dimension.

Analysis of content promoted by the algorithms of Facebook and Twitter reveals their tendency to favor content that elicits strong emotional reactions and interactions, which can influence the dynamics and direction of discussions. Among the most frequently appearing content on Facebook are posts from politicians, media outlets, and non-governmental organizations, while on Twitter, experts and sources focused on the armed conflict predominate. There is also noticeable presence of pro-Russian content, which can influence the shaping of narratives and public opinion.

In the context of Poland, the increase in discussions surrounding the Volhynia massacre is particularly significant, especially in nationalist and radical circles. Combined with the observed decline in overall interest in the Ukraine conflict, this can lead to a shift in societal attitudes and political decision-making.

In summary, this analysis points to a significant change in the dynamics and nature of discussions about the Ukraine conflict on social media, with an emphasis on political aspects and a decrease in overall social engagement. These trends may have long-term consequences for how the conflict is perceived, both in Poland and on the international stage.

Main Threats – Russian Scenario

Based on the analysis of social media discussions regarding the Ukraine conflict, the following scenarios of actions for Russia in the context of interest, sentiment, and emotions in Poland can be anticipated:

Decreased Interest in the Conflict: Poland is witnessing a decline in interest in the Ukraine conflict. This reduced interest may lead to less media and social pressure on Russia, which Moscow may perceive as an opportunity to intensify propaganda or military actions, counting on a weaker international response.

Growing Social Apathy: Progressive fatigue with the war may result in increased indifference towards Russia’s actions in Ukraine. In such a scenario, Russia may attempt to further strengthen its position in Ukraine, hoping for less international resistance.

Exploitation of Disinformation: In the context of reduced engagement and critical thinking on the issue, Russia may intensify disinformation efforts in Poland to shape the narrative in its favor, especially on social media.

Exploiting Internal Divisions in Poland: Russia may try to exploit the increasing internal divisions and political tensions in Poland, such as those related to the Volhynia massacre, to further weaken unity and solidarity towards Ukraine. Such actions could be aimed at deepening divisions and reducing support for Ukraine.

Focus on Other International Issues: As other international issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, gain prominence, Russia may perceive that less attention is being paid to its actions in Ukraine. This could lead to an intensification of military or political actions.

In summary, facing decreased interest and war fatigue in Poland, Russia may seek to capitalize on this situation to further solidify its positions and achieve strategic goals in Ukraine while conducting more effective disinformation campaigns and exploiting internal divisions in Poland.

Summary Considering the Predicted Dynamics in the Next 12 Months

In the context of observed trends on social media and the general decline of interest in the Ukraine conflict, it can be predicted that within the next 12 months, there will be a further weakening of interest and sentiment in Poland towards Ukraine. Key factors contributing to this trend may include:

Ineffective Communication from Ukraine: Issues such as Volhynia or agricultural and food problems, which are important in the context of Polish-Ukrainian relations, may not be effectively communicated by the Ukrainian side to the Polish public. This can lead to insufficient understanding and empathy for Ukraine’s situation in Poland.

War Fatigue: Ongoing war fatigue, both in Poland and across the broader Western world, may lead to further reduced interest in the conflict. This weakens social and political pressure for actions supporting Ukraine.

Impact of Ukraine’s Integration with the EU: The process of Ukraine’s integration with the European Union may elicit various reactions in Poland. Concerns about the consequences of this integration, both economic and political, can influence how Ukrainians are perceived by Poles.

Threats Related to Disinformation: Russian disinformation and propaganda on social media are likely to continue in order to deepen uncertainty and divisions within Polish society regarding the Ukraine conflict.

Internal Divisions in Poland: Internal divisions in Poland, exacerbated by ineffective communication and disinformation, may lead to further weakening of support for Ukraine.

In conclusion, over the next 12 months, it is likely that there will be a further weakening of interest and sentiment in Poland towards Ukraine, resulting from a combination of ineffective communication, war fatigue, complex international and domestic issues, and the influence of disinformation. This poses a challenge for Poland, both in terms of maintaining support for Ukraine and in shaping domestic policy and public opinion.

You can download the full report HERE