Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Monday, Jun 17, 2024

The Russians using emojis to evade censors

The Russians using emojis to evade censors

On 24 February, as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, an image started to spread on social media - a picture of the Russian poet Pushkin, the number seven and rows of the "person walking" emoji.

To those in the know, the meaning was clear - a location (Pushkin Square, in Moscow), a time and a call to protest against the government's actions.

The emojis made reference to a code used for years in Russia to refer to protests - one so well known to the authorities, it is barely a code at all, according to human rights group OVD-Info.

Why use code?

Unauthorised protests have been banned in the country since 2014 and breaches of the rules can lead to up to 15 days detention for a first offence. Repeat offenders can receive prison sentences of up to five years.

Since then, it has been common for activists to use various coded phrases to organise online.

"It's like, 'Let's go for a walk to the centre,' or, 'The weather is great for a walk,'" Maria says. This is what she will text her friends to let them know she plans to attend a protest.

What started as a way to evade government censors has almost become an inside joke or a meme, Maria tells BBC News.

Nevertheless, the consequences of not using this language can be serious.

What are the potential consequences?

Alexander attended a protest in Moscow, having posted about it on social media.

The following morning, plain-clothes officers picked him up outside his girlfriend's building and took him to the local police department. He was detained for several days and compelled to sign a document listing what the authorities said he had done.

We cannot be certain his attendance at the protest or his social media activity led to Alexander's detention. He was later arrested for a second time, while using the Moscow Metro, on a day he had not been attending a protest.

BBC News has learned of other detentions based solely on social media activity, including one woman arrested for a tweet.

On 24 February, she posted: "I haven't walked in the centre for a long time," and quoted another account's tweet containing a more explicit call to rally.

Five days later, she was arrested while taking a train.

She believes she was detected by facial-recognition software active on the Moscow Metro system - and in her court hearing, a document containing her tweet was presented, showing the authorities had taken a screenshot of it almost immediately after she had posted it.

Rights groups have been monitoring how many people have been detained for protesting - and how they are being treated

In another case, Niki, a blogger, described how a close friend's brother had been detained twice - once for a few hours after attending a protest and a second time, for a whole week, for sharing the details with his friends on VK, Russia's equivalent of Facebook.

Almost 14,000 people have been detained across Russia since the conflict began a fortnight ago, mainly for attending protests according to OVD-Info - which provides legal advice.

So far, most have been held for a matter of hours or days.

Is the situation changing?

A law was introduced in Russia on Friday 4 March, with the stated aim of tackling "fake news" about the military but it is expected to be used to crack down even further on anti-war protests - including prison sentences of up to 15 years, significantly longer than previous sanctions.

For young people such as Maria, this has "already changed things, because now I'm afraid to go to protest and also I'm afraid to post about this 'special operation' [Russia's invasion of Ukraine]".

And there are clear indications arrests have increased since the new law was introduced, OVD-Info says.

Where are Russians now posting?

The shuttering of independent media outlets, blocking of Facebook and restrictions on Russians posting on TikTok have taken away key routes to access information, OVD-Info co-ordinator Leonid Drabkin says, and people will self-censor out of fear.

"Now if you go to your Instagram, there are like 10 times fewer posts," he says.

Many of his contacts have deleted their social-media profiles altogether.

And coupled with the stringent penalties, this has already affected the number of people "brave enough to protest".


Related Articles

Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner