I think this is a good question. It is a hard question. It gets to what people need from us versus what we can do to help them.
There are competing forces here we need to balance, so ultimately my answer is "It depends."
I think we want to fight misinformation as part of our raison d'etre, but that misinformation comes in many forms.
- Some of the claims we tackle are pure, innocent Urban Legends. Someone thought a story was true. Someone didn't understand a legal term.
No-one is working to defend these errors, and we can easily correct them.
- Some of the claims we tackle are scams and marketing tripe. They are deliberate lies, but they only exist for a simple profit motive.
I think we do well against such claims, showing that they are not supported by evidence.
- Some of the claims we tackle are more about bolstering people's ideologies - e.g. that statements in the Bible are all literally true, that Ayurvedic approaches are more effective that modern medicine, that Germ Theory is wrong.
Not only are these claims harder to persuade people about (because
changing your mind means changing who you are as a person), but, more
relevantly here, they are promoted by organised groups of
- Some claims, however, are put out by nation-state level propagandists. It is difficult to pin down motivations, but it is understood that for this level of propaganda, it isn't necessary for people to trust these claims; it is sufficient that the targets no longer trust any claims. The goal isn't to promote a particular lie, but just to obscure true information, so people can't act on it.
The idea of tackling such machinery is daunting, but throwing up our hands and saying "It is too hard to even bother" is precisely what the propagandists are aiming for. We should not give up so easily; showing that evidence-based approaches can cut through lies is important.
So this is an argument FOR letting recent claims about the Russo-Ukrainian War be tackled here.
[These categories aren't hard and sharp. For example, I would suggest US political parties (and their donors) have greater funding for propaganda than many nation states. I also am a big fan of answers that show the claim is true, despite my doubts when I first saw the question; let's not forget them!]
Skeptics.SE users are not forensic investigators who can examine on-scene evidence and have powers to compel people to answer. We are not journalists, funded to rush into war-zones with cameras and microphones. We are not Internet sleuths, coming up with our own amateur theories and original research, like Reddit.
We largely popularise the evidence-based conclusions that have already been reached.
So, when people ask questions that try to pre-empt the conclusions of court cases, of official inquiries or are likely being investigated by dozens of international journalists, I think they somewhat overestimate what we might be capable of achieving.
We have a close reason for current events, precisely because it is too early for firm conclusions to be published.
So this is an argument AGAINST letting recent claims about the Russo-Ukrainian War be tackled here.
So, how do we balance these two forces? I think it depends on the question...
These questions strike me as relatively simple yes/no fact-based claim that should not take very long to be confirmed or refuted by journalists:
This (currently closed) question doubts the existing output of journalists, so will take longer to resolve:
This (currently closed) question asks about the motivation of an army. It might one day be the subject of a War Crimes tribunal, and we would get an answer then.
Because these are line-ball decisions, I think we can have legitimate (hopefully minor) disagreements about where the line should be drawn, and I hope regulars will help keep the mods in line with the community here. Close/re-open votes are the ideal mechanism, but with comments and meta-questions too.
A similar question was asked in 2014: Should we handle Ukraine-related propaganda. My thinking on the answer has changed slightly, but not a lot.