Tracking Russian Oil/Gas Tankers, Disinformation Campaigns, Bypassing Censorship, More: Ukraine Update, March 14, 2022


Greenpeace UK: Follow tankers carrying Russian oil and gas, live on Twitter. “In response to the invasion of Ukraine, many countries have taken steps to block shipments of Russian oil and gas. Now an amazing new Twitter tool allows anyone to see where tankers carrying Russian fuels are going – and where we need to cut our ties to fossil fuels.”


Washington Post: ‘I’m writing this post now and crying’: Russians bid farewell to Instagram before midnight ban. “The tears were flowing Sunday among Russia’s airbrushed Instagram influencers, who begged their followers in farewell posts to join them on alternative social media platforms, as Russian authorities prepared to shut down the U.S.-owned social network at midnight. Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, officially banned Instagram on Friday and gave Russian users a 48-hour grace period to say goodbye to the popular app, initiating the forced exodus.”

CNN: Russian internet users are learning how to beat Putin’s internet crackdown. “To defeat Russia’s internet censorship, many are turning to specialized circumvention technology that’s been widely used in other countries with restricted online freedoms, including China and Iran. Digital rights experts say Putin may have inadvertently sparked a massive, permanent shift in digital literacy in Russia that will work against the regime for years.”


Media Matters: A pro-Russia propaganda campaign is using over 180 TikTok influencers to promote the invasion of Ukraine. “Over 180 Russian influencers on TikTok are involved in a seemingly concerted propaganda campaign using the caption ‘Russian Lives Matter’ and participating in a combination of three trends that promote online support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

New York Times: Bitcoin Was Made for This Moment. So Why Isn’t It Booming?. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was met with brutal sanctions that have tanked the ruble and devastated the Russian economy, and many U.S. companies have pulled out of Russia, making it nearly impossible for its citizens to access their bank accounts, use credit cards or even post on social media. In other words, this is a perfect storm of economic and geopolitical events that should, theoretically, be great for Bitcoin. But Bitcoin hasn’t boomed. In fact, even as Wall Street analysts contemplate the possibility of nuclear Armageddon, crypto prices have fallen steadily.”

BBC: Ukraine: How China is censoring online discussion of the war. “Posts expressing partisan views have been removed on a daily basis – both for and against Russian military action. ‘No-one dares to stand with Ukraine right now,’ wrote one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. ‘It’s all one-sided support for Russia.’ This was removed along with many others like it, according to Free Weibo, which tracks Chinese censorship online.”


Politico: ‘Not the time to go poking around’: How former U.S. hackers view dealing with Russia. “The CIA and NSA have spent years burrowing into Russia’s critical computer networks to collect intelligence — and acquire access that President Joe Biden could seize on to order destructive cyberattacks on Vladimir Putin’s regime. But for now, the United States’ most likely approach is to tread slowly and carefully toward any cyber conflict with Russia, three experts with experience in U.S. hacking operations told POLITICO — while hoping the Russians do the same.”

Slate: Future Tense Newsletter: Cutting Russia Off From the Global Internet Is Exactly What Putin Wants. “Every important tech company that has pulled out of Russia is another satisfying reputational blow to Putin’s regime (who has called the withdrawal of international brands and sanctions ‘economic warfare’), but it is also another step toward closing any remaining autonomous spaces for Russian citizens, including those who oppose the government and want to organize against it, to communicate with each other and share news and information beyond the full control of the Kremlin.”


Overseas Development Institute: A war on many fronts: disinformation around the Russia-Ukraine war. “From TikTok to Telegram, information about the frontlines of the war seems simultaneously more authentic and more uncertain, more controlled and more open to channels that might bypass state-controlled information. But to claim that there is one social media war is misleading. The role and impact of disinformation – false information that is deliberately spread to cause harm – depends on both its context and intended audience.”

Brookings Institution: China and Russia are joining forces to spread disinformation. “Though Russian and Chinese interests diverge in important ways, they are increasingly collaborating on the narratives being supplied to domestic audiences, feeding similar disinformation and propaganda to a citizenry increasingly cut off from the global web…. Against the backdrop of last month’s joint statement from Xi and Putin, this collaboration should be seen as part of a broader project to reshape the global information landscape to favor the Kremlin and Beijing’s authoritarian political projects.”

Robert Lansing Institute: Russia Targets the “Jewish Lobby” and Communities with Anti-Ukraine Disinformation. “A recent story about the alleged looting and attacks on Jewish community members in Zhytomyr in the wake of their attempts to leave the country for Israel was quickly debunked by the local Chabad chapter, but not before making the rounds on social media and in Jewish activist circles…. Fact checking by Chabad afterwards revealed that there were no multiple victims of alleged looting, attacks, and harassment. The entire scenario was a fabrication. But this is not the first time Russian propaganda machinery has targeted the Jewish community with fictitious accounts of Ukrainian street brutality or the government’s alleged failure to protect them.”

Radio Prague International: Czech-Russian nuclear research terminated after over 60 years. “For more than six decades, Czech scientists have been involved in nuclear research at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in the Russian town of Dubna. Now, the Czech Republic has announced it will terminate its long-term cooperation with the Russian institution, following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.”

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