Twitter’s new policy misused by pro-Kremlin accounts to block Ukrainian bloggers #SaveUaTwi

A #SaveUaTwi meme. Image: social media

A #SaveUaTwi meme. Image: social media 

2016/01/09 • News

Changes to twitter’s policy have resulted in the suspension of accounts of top-Ukrainian bloggers in what observers call a concerted campaign to block critics of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. 

In a bid to stop online harassment, twitter adopted new policies in the last days of 2015. One of the new changes includes prohibition of “hateful conduct.” While the purpose of the new rules was to “protect the freedom of expression,” their outcome for the Ukrainian sector is a banning of top bloggers, some with hundreds of thousands of followers.

A list of the suspended accounts

A list of the suspended accounts. Source: @Andr3ewLVUA

Ukrainian twitter users have launched a campaign called #SaveUAtwi. It has been supported by the Ukrainian ambassador in Finland Andrii Olefirov:

According to observers, this is a concerted campaign of pro-Putin twitter accounts, many of which could originate from the infamous Olgino “troll factory.” This inconspucious building in the suburbs of St.Petersburg is the Russian regime’s hub to social media support for Russia’s policies and state-controlled media, the secrets of which were described by an undercover journalist on a one-woman spying mission. This time, it appears that the trolls are moving from verbal abuse and spreading disinformation to active measures.

Twitter user @geomysl made a summary of how the campaign works. According to him, thousands of fake accounts are sending automatic complaints about tweets of top Ukrainian bloggers containing words that can be red-flagged according to twitter’s new policy.

It appears that the account @Leninkaratel is coordinating the campaign, sharing calls to block “undesirable” bloggers. After that, numerous users target the blogger and report a tweet containing a questionable word. The popular account @Andr3ewLVUA here reports on attempts to block him originating from different users:

Banned for opposing the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine

The main reason for the ban is calls for violence against Russian-backed separatists that are plaguing the East of the country with war. But only users with a pro-Ukrainian and anti-Putin position are being banned, including for tweets made years ago and for citations of other users’ words. Trolls from Russia that call to kill Ukrainians and tweet pictures of disfigured slain Ukrainian soldiers are not getting banned.

Sometimes the formulations of “hateful conduct” are old, vague, and are not directed at any specific person. Here is one by @Reggaemortis1 with nearly 26 000 followers. Otherwise known as Kirill Mikhailov, he is a Russian activist that moved to Ukraine due to disagreeing with Putin’s policies, and a Euromaidan Press author. It was tweeted on 16 May 2015, before the new policy was enforced.

1

Lord, there are Kremlin bots together with Australians that lost their family [in the MH17 crash] in the comments. The situation when I really want to kill somebody.

Mikhailov deleted this and another similar tweet, but got suspended first for 12 hours, then again. Tech support told Mikhailov that it would take 30 days to process the issue.

Reported for venting about greasy haircare products 3 years ago

Because of the automatic searches for “bad” words that could be reported to twitter support, sometimes the attempts to ban Ukrainians get comical. For instance, this post from 1 May 2012, in which @JulieAndreeva tweeted: “[I want to] to kill and dissect those hair care producers that don’t warn that their products are on an oil base”

Twitter finds that Russian users calling to kill Ukrainians don’t “violate rules”

With Russia’s “invasion by any other name” into Ukraine and the accompanying information war dragging into its second year, both (pro)Ukrainians and (pro)Russians users could have exchanged words that could be technically blacklisted by twitter’s new policy. But reports are coming in suggesting that this recent “twittercide” is far from being symmetrical. For some reason, twitter support is rejecting reports from Ukrainian users about incidents of derogating Ukrainians and threatening to kill them coming from accounts saluting Putin’s intervention in Ukraine.

One recent example is user @meesix, who attempted to report a tweet by the account @aab_oven that cheerleads Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying “I understood this question. I answer no. I am a person that is ready to cut khohly [derogatory name for Ukrainians] like pigs for killing children” and received a response that it is “not in violation of the Twitter Rules.”

Will twitter protect the freedom of speech of activists opposing a repressive regime?

To escape the fate of the dozens of bloggers that are already blocked, the Belarus edition of Radio Liberty suggests changing the account language to English and changing the account’s location, erasing all old tweets, ignoring trolls, and sticking to the rules. But the concerted campaign against Ukrainian bloggers shows that the rules can be stretched with mass attacks from fake accounts, and semantics of “hateful conduct” can be concocted out of any post of exasperation. And exasperation is an emotion that many Ukrainians feel when their country is under a covert attack by a Russian hybrid army that goes unnoticed by the world.

“Twitter is an indispensable platform for civic activists under conditions of violations of freedom of speech and repressions against independent media in different countries of the world. Obviously, blocking popular accounts that resist repressive regimes leads to an increase, rather than a decrease, in actual human rights violations. This is why I would like twitter’s management to solve the problem to the advantage of all interested parties, who are willing, I am sure, to follow certain guidelines, if it will allow communicating the necessary information to others,”

Kirill Mikhailov stated in a fb post. It depends on twitter whether people like Kirill that have the courage to oppose the repressive regime of Putin’s Russia and the billions of petrorubles pumped into the troll factory in Olgino, will be allowed to speak freely, or whether the Kremlin will be allowed to carry out its “weaponization of information” strategy now on the world’s top social media platform.

You can help by bringing twitter management’s attention to the problem. Click to tweet:

 

 

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  • Nowhere Girl

    Similar policies are reported by Facebook users. For example there is a popular profile “Russian Fifth Column in Poland”, extremely interesting because it provides a lot of information about such connections which may even pose a danger to the state (more extreme pro-Russian activists even recruit Poles to fight for “Novorossiya”). And there have been repeated cases of unequal treatment of pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian users. When profiles of non-existing political entities such as “Vilnius People’s Republic” and “Lviv People’s Republic” (almost certainly Russian provocations done with participation of their informal agents in Poland) are reported, Facebook responds that “they can’t censor views”. The same goes for other profiles wich disseminate anti-Ukrainian hate speech. On the other hand, the “Russian Fifth Column in Poland” profile itself has repeatedly been suspended.
    By the way, another example of attacks on these whistleblowers. The webmaster of this profile doesn’t reveal him-/herself, but a guy know as Marcin Rey (btw – descendant of the Rennaissance writer Mikołaj Rey, known as the “father of Polish literature”) is widely believed to be the webmaster. And he has been repeatedly attacked by pro-Russian agents. For example they used the method of accusing a political enemy of pedophilia: a letter has been circulated in the place where the supposed webmaster lives, saying that he had allegedly been sentenced in France for having sexually abused two girls, “Eura” and “Asia”. Interesting names, by the way, because in fact they are a signature of those who are trying to perform this smear campaign: judging by the names of these two imaginary girls, one can be almost sure that this is the work of Polish Eurasianists.

  • Dirk Smith

    LOL. Another Putinist parrot. By the way, it’s spelled Kyiv now, Nazi.

    • Nowhere Girl

      Provide evidence for your claim the current Ukrainian authorities are “neo-nazi”.

    • Dirk Smith

      The fact you actually believe Bandera was a fascist verifies my statement. You take on the decades-old Stalinist propaganda being perpetuated by your boy Putin. Bandera spent over two years in Sachenshausen concentration camp, his brother died in Auschwitz, and he was murdered by your KGB. He was a Ukrainian nationalist who fought against Poland, Germany, and ruSSia. Like all muscovites, you’re a liar.

      • Nowhere Girl

        Still, neither Azov battalion nor Svoboda are “Ukrainian authorities”.
        In my opinion, the most one could accuse the government of is tolerance towards extreme right groups – a position which is to some extent comprehensible in these circumstances (Ukraine’s independence is in danger, so the military etc. are willing to accept anyone who can fight and wants to fight), but still dangerous (neo-nazis with combat experience can become dangerous for the public order after the threat is over). Still, the government itself is pro-European and far from being fascist.

        • Nowhere Girl

          PS. Not even the whole infamous Azov battalion is really neo-nazi. Andriy Biletskyj and his closest comrades are, but the rest of the unit – not necessarily. From what I’ve read it seems that the commanders of this battalion are members of a group called Misanthropic Division which considers itself an “elite” of the extreme right movement and doesn’t want to recruit just anybody.

        • Dirk Smith

          Sure thing, Golden Dawn boy. Nobody cares about your opinion. LOL.

        • Nowhere Girl

          About Odessa: yes, football ultras were very aggressive and would have been happy to let the pro-Russian protesters die. But the fire was almost certainly started from within the trade union building, probably to prevent the building from being stormed by opponents – and Euromaidan activists started doing what they could to save people inside the building after they had lost control over the fire.
          And as for the EU: do you realize – not just you personally, but all pro-Russian commentators – that you are inconsequent? On the one hand you are accusing Ukrainians of being fascists contrary to European values, on the other hand you are always eager to state that the EU is falling apart. And this is the gist of this problem: Russia is presenting a false alternative. It has long (already in early Soviet times) been claiming that Ukrainians are nationalists and trying to present itself as the alternative. But Russian “internationalism” is not anti-nationalism. It’s an opponent of all “small”, defensive nationalisms in the “Russian world” and by itself a kind of nationalism – one that presents the great Russian culture as superior and expects others to assimilate to it. An honest opposition to nationalism should be about human rights, tolerance, diversity, and not about equating other people’s stance of being true to their culture with nationalism and chauvinism. This is why I perceive “European values”, not Russian aggressive conservatism and de facto nationalism, as the true alternative to hostility between nations. This is why I am going to support the EU and will be against my country’s position when it has become the Union’s new internal enemy. Because an alternative to hostility can only lie in mutual understanding and not in depriving people of their rights so that they may not even express hostility.

          • Tony

            “The notion that the Odessa massacre was perpetreted by..the victims”
            Here:
            youtu.be/NZF1qsVU7Fs

            Watch how these “victims” fire an ak-47 into the other side(yes someone died from it) all while being protected by the police. Maybe they shouldnt have tried to start a fight with pro-Unity protesters? Maybe they shouldnt have shot at and killed pro-unity protesters? Maybe they should have just dispersed when the police came to cover them instead of hanging around and stoking the violence until it was too late?

            As for your ‘neo-nazi’ claim, its rubbish, the ‘journalism’ is rubbish (globalresearch.ca – the same site that posts vaccine denial and global warming denial HAHAHAHA!, the supposed Nazi symbols in Azov are only nazi symbols if you use your imagination and Azov denies being a Nazi organization while admitting that its members are free to their own views, the opinion piece from slon.com is just that – opinion and disputed by other sources) and no “neo-nazi Kiev regime imposed after the Maidan” Ukraine’s government does not have a nazi ideology (its projection by that other country making the claim). The fact that we so pushes from Kiev to improve democracy(like decentralization) and didnt see any big fascist pushes from Kiev in the last two years proves that these claims are baseless (oh let me guess, according to you trying to liberate your own territory from an invader is fascist?).

          • Tony

            *Yawn*, so much misinformation, where to start?

            “subhumans”

            That was just a quote mine, past Yatsenyuks original words with the translation I will proove it to you. He was referring to the russian government and the terrorists they sponsor, not to normal Ukrainians living in Donbass.

            “You mass bombarded major urban centers”

            What like this?:
            http://www.stopfake.org/content/uploads/2014/05/Donetsk_Navigator.jpg

            It never happened. It was just another fake (original image: http://www.stopfake.org/content/uploads/2014/05/city_of_Donetsk_113.jpg )

            but of course people died and they were killed by both sides. For example, here militants murdered 30+ civilians with an attack on a residential area (http://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-city-of-mariupol-hit-by-deadly-rocket-fire-1422100691) and here you can see them shelling a residential block for over 6 minutes which looks damn intentional to me ( http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=df8_1437287013 ).

            Human shield tactics amongst militants are well known about. They would take heavy weapon system and park them next to residential areas, hospitals, schools and then open fire. If Ukrainian troops dont fire back then they will be destroyed, if they do then they risk collateral damage.

            For example, here is some video proof of what im saying ( https://youtu.be/5wHHC5DX_QI ).

            Also, a fair bit of russian propaganda is mixed in with all this. For example the girl who was “murdered” by Ukrainian military, yet once BBC crews investigated it they got russian “journalists” to confess that it was a fabrication ( https://youtu.be/HW-4a0P8sjs ).

            Here is some more on how propaganda misleads here: http://www.stopfake.org/en/how-russian-tv-misleads-viewers-about-ukraine/

            Ok, next. “while gloating at the burning alive of the Odessa protesters”. I already covered this one, it was unfortunate for sure but those guys brought it on themselves for going confront a pro-Unity rally with automatic rifles and string the pot longer than they needed (they should have left as soon when the cops covered them instead of staying to cause more trouble)

            Next. “starve their population to submission” and yet the russians/militants blocked Ukraine/International aid into Donbass:
            http://ukraine.usembassy.gov/statements/kirby-expulsion-luhansk-09252015.html

            Next. “got their asses handed over to them by the miners”. How romantic… those same miners also kicked Ukraine army’s ass, yes 5% fought off the other 95% AND they went from near defeat (remember when Donetsk and Luhansk were encircled and sieged?) to pushing out and gaining terroritory. All done by simple miners, without any aid…

            Ok yea, back in reality russia is heavily involved in this conflict and they sent TOS-1 MLRS (OSCE confirmed: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/186276), T-72B3 tanks, Pantsir anti-air, Buk, electronic warfare R-330 (OSCE confirmed: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/177826). Then there are the russian soldiers captured in Ukraine (some examples: https://youtu.be/4TTuR1y-Ui4 , https://youtu.be/zYQ0MmbU9tk , http://lugansk-news.com/russian-maj-starkov-captured-near-donetsk-with-truck-full-of-ammo-sentenced-to-14-years-in-jail-by-ukrainian-judge/ BTW, russia exchanged the last guy for some UA soldiers ).

            “Banderstan”
            I dont even know what you guys are on about with Bandera. He was a contrversial figure for sure, he fought for independance he also worked with and was betrayed by the Nazis (same as Stalin, but you dont call Stalin a Nazi?).

            Next, the articled, rubbish as usual. Like I said, even Azov denies having a Nazi ideology. Of course some people within Azov may hold such views but so what? (if youre looking for Neo-Nazis then look at russia, they have the worlds largest concentration of neo-nazis but you are silent on this?). The claim that Azov’s symbol is a ‘modified'(lol, why modified? i.e you have to use your imagination to get the desired result) “wolfsangel” is laughable because even Azov denies this and rather says its a modified Ukrainian trident (but hey who cares what the people who made it think right, whats important is what YOU think and how YOU judge them[lol, not really]).

            Anyway, thats enough time wasted on you. Clearly you havent done your research, in case you are not a paid rus troll, I seriously urge you to go THOROUGHLY fact check everything you think you know about this conflict.

          • Nowhere Girl

            If I remember the Azov symbol well, I’d say it resembles a wolfsangel much more than a tryzub. I agree about the rest.

          • Tony

            Well this is a Wolfsangel:
            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Wolfsangel.svg/2000px-Wolfsangel.svg.png
            and this is Azov’s symbol:
            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/98/Flag_of_the_Azov_Battalion.svg/2000px-Flag_of_the_Azov_Battalion.svg.png
            The trident is also at the bottom for comparision. If you shorten the centre line and mirror the N then it looks like a Wolfsangel. If you draw three lines to represent a trident and a diagonal connecting line then get Azovs symbol. Of course, opinions differ.

            Regardless, when dealing with creative work, I dont think its fair to ignore what the creator thought and insert our own interpretations.
            Some say its a modified trident more importantly Azov’s leader Andriy Biletsky claimed that the symbol is an abbreviation for the slogan “ідея нації”
            (ukr. for “national idea”) and denied any connection with Nazism.

            Instead of all this fuss about symbols(and ancient ones at that, Wolfsangel predates Nazis thus not uniquely Nazi even) I would prefer hearing from Azovs people to understand what the average mentality there is.
            uatoday did a interview with Azov here:

            Those guys basically laugh it off and say they dont care about the poop russians are throwing at them. They claim to be neither fascist nor xenophobes(and their ranks include Russians and other nationalities). They say they are there to do one thing, defend their country.

          • Nowhere Girl

            Btw, did you notice the image in the background? The so-called “black sun”?

          • Tony

            Yes, Black Sun is a type of Sun Wheel or Sun Cross which was/is a popular pagan/occult symbol. Black sun was used by the Nazis. Azov’s version is white though(wasnt the darkness a central story plot to the myth here?), dont know if this by accident or purpose, for all I know the inventor meant to create a “White Sun” with opposite effect of a “Black Sun”.

            Azov is of course a right wing organization and it is said that 10-20% of its recruits have Nazi viewpoints. However this doesnt make the organization Nazi. Even if they used if Azov used full blown swastika and said ‘heil Hitler’ every day, that still wouldnt make the organization Nazi.

            Now if they started preaching facist ideology about ethnic cleansing and the ‘master race’, then they would most probably be Nazi. Yet they dont do this and instead officially deny being fascist or xenophobic, their commanders attribute Nazisim in their ranks to “misguided youth” and they are a multi-cultural, multi-national, right-wing fighting force.

          • Nowhere Girl

            As I said in another comment – yes, it seems that the majority of Azov members are not neo-nazis. The leaders likely are, but they seem to belong to a group which considers itself elite and doesn’t care about recruitiing “ordinary people” (good for those who won’t be recruited). However, their symbols look suspicious to people who know a thing about nazi iconography.

          • Tony

            Clearly you are a troll. A normal human would have stopped to think. No sense wasting time on someone unwilling to think about it.

            Before I go, here is a gift for you: evidence(part of it confirmed by OSCE, the rest via technical analysis) that militants most likely shelled a Donetsk residential and hospital district, i.e they shell their ‘own’ people(cause they arent ‘their’ people).

            http://russianagression.wikidot.com/july-21st-shellings-of-donetsk