Ukraine, resistance on the web against Russian fake news

from Francesco Battistini

Sh @ ra, Dmitro, Ihor: thirty-forty Ukrainians debunking and fighting Russian brand hoaxes made of trolls, fake photos and made-up posts

FROM OUR REPORTER – «Rock the Data, rock the World». At the end of the day, patriot Sh @ ra has red eyes and is happy. In his trench on the ground floor of a brutalist building in Kiev, a bare office, he lowers his hood and laughs under his beard: “Even today I unmasked a bit of fake!”. With your index finger, caress the six white words printed on the black sweatshirt. What do you do, he has it written on him: «I only need a few data and I can shake the world …». All afternoon, Sh @ ra has been patrolling the net: “It’s my second job for four years.” Scouted the trolls: “By now I know them well, they always write from unlikely accounts from Siberia or Karelia.” Pursued and rejected Putin’s hoaxes: «With all these rumors of war, it’s strange, the Russians are not doing anything special. They put the usual things on social media: Ukrainians beware, the West will betray you, you will end up like Afghanistan, NATO cannot defend you… Things like that. Normal propaganda. Obviously, more than the trolls, they are engaged in moving the troops ». Have they ceased the propaganda fire? “I do not believe. They wait to see what happens. And they will leave soon ».

The Elves of Ukraine are not boys. They are called Sh @ ra, Dmitro or Ihor. Thirties, forties with wives and children. IT engineers or data managers of some company. They have the mortgage, the bacon and they cheer Dinamo. In their own way, they hold the mouse like an Ak-47 and when the homeland calls, outside office hours, they too lend a hand: debunking, catching and debunking the disinformation of the enemy Kremlin. «We need someone who stands guard on the web – says Sh @ ra -, because this is a hybrid war made up of trolls, made-up posts, false photos. We must respond to the blows ». With his small company and a couple of collaborators, Sh @ ra has become a point of reference like so many enlisted in the infantry of and A small army of geeks, unknown to all, who know how to read the misinformation and write another story, as annoying as possible for the enemy: perhaps publishing the detailed list with names, surnames, place of birth and photographs of each Russian soldier amassed close to the Donbass.

“I compared the articles and comments published on six German and Austrian news sites – tells Sh @ ra – and a few weeks ago I proved that at least six “news” on gas and NATO were nothing more than official communications from the Moscow government: taken on an equal footing and passed unscathed through filters and controls. Clearly false claims, get into circulation thanks to authoritative newspapers and shared by an impressive number of comments, all coming from equally fake profiles. At 70 per cent, Russian profiles ».

More views than news: the “free Elves” of Lithuania began to fight the bad Trolls paid by the Kremlin in 2014, just when Russia had invaded Crimea and flooded the internet with tissue papers, e gradually Estonians and Latvians joined the cyber resistance, also associated with both the EU and NATO, to the point of infecting the Poles, the Bulgarians and the Ukrainians. Under the motto: “It is the battle between democracies and regimes”. Self the first victim of any war has always been the truth, in this century its morgue is Facebook. The Russians also know this, who from an old Muscovite factory and an open space in St. Petersburg surf the social networks to shoot lies and strip away, too, some false truths posted on the net by enemies: the posts who tell how Putin cured Covid for two years only with garlicvodka & prayers, the colorful shots of some political scientist who pretends to be in Kiev and actually has a salary in Washington, the fascist propaganda of Pravy Sektor, the exaltation of the Ukrainian armed forces, the trivialization of Russian reasons … The Putinian Beast has made himself famous manufacturing fake to sell in the West, but it has also begun to protect itself from external incursions. Using threats, insults, social attacks. “They hacked me a few times,” says Sh @ ra. Fear? “No. But my name is better if you don’t write it down. ‘

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