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How Information Technology & Web 3.0 Is Leveraged to Help Ukraine & Cancel Russia

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine

To Generations Z’s and Millennials born after the Cold War like myself, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looks like an ancient relic from a dark and chilling past in human history. Considering the prosperity that I and everyone I know personally was born into, it seems absurd to sacrifice human lives for a country to extend its land borders. With the globalization, the ubiquitous internet, and the digital opportunities that exist today, the very idea of land borders is insignificant.

However, against all anticipation, the world is now witnessing a new WW2 scenario close at hand. It is playing out in my East European backyard. The NATO countries are prevented from interfering too much in the conflict due to Russia’s largest-in-the-world nuclear arsenal.[1] The slightest risk of a nuclear battle between East and West compels countries to err on the side of caution. As a result, principles of public international law are difficult to enforce – even when we are witnessing a crime against humanity taking place.

Beyond imposing financial sanctions on Russia, and providing humanitarian support and military equipment to Ukraine, there are massive efforts from the global civilization to support Ukraine against the attack. Wars of the past have been broadcasted on radio transmissions and flow- tv, but web 2.0 and web 3.0 provide a two-way street communication channel with a global reach.

Global society seems to agree that Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is based on an antiquated, black-and-white world view that belongs nowhere in the 21st Century. On the other hand, Ukraine is considered to be one of the most tech-savvy nations in the world. And while Russian media outlets are changing facts about the war, and shielding their citizens from Facebook, Twitter, and international news portals[2], Ukraine is backed by the global community thanks to modern-day IT.

In this post, I will run through some of the ways that IT is being leveraged in support of Ukraine. This post was in part inspired by a tweet from Whitney Merrill

How Information Technology Is Leveraged to Support Ukraine

First of all, social media providers and users are helping to silence and expose Russia’s propaganda apparatus. While Russian television channels are showing chat shows, old movies, and debates with experts that down-play or deny that an invasion is taking place[3], the global information ecosystem helps to spread reliable information from trusted news sources.

State-owned media outlets like RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik are blocked from various social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok to avoid the spread of fake news.

Facebook and Twitter are increasing their focus on systematic misinformation campaigns where fake accounts with GAN-generated photos post misleading content to sway public opinion.

Google follows in the footsteps of Twitter and Snapchat and pauses all advertisement in Russia.

The censorship of intentionally misleading information ensures a more factful news flow. But the true power that social media holds over printed magazines and other one-sided communication channels is the reach, scope, and depth of how a message can spread.

Just think of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s, powerful speech to the Russian people. Or his request on Twitter for civilians to defend the country. Thanks to the global communication networks, these messages can reach tens of millions of people within hours.

Other prominent examples of important messages that are spread are the Ukrainian leaders’ attempt to gather digital talents for an IT army, their official invitation for foreigners to join the Ukrainian defense forces, their call for donations in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and USTD, and plea to private companies for help.

Among many others, Elon Musk has answered the calls by providing Ukraine with access to Starlink, the world’s fastest satellite internet system, within 12 hours after he was asked to by the Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister.

Never have a war been so well-documented, from hour to hour and minute to minute. Almost everything is being tracked in full publicity.  Like the amount of crypto donations to Ukraine, military incidents on a crowd-funded online map, and the whereabouts of Russian oligarchs’ private jets

The app StandWithUkraine is a platform that gathers all kinds of resources to support Ukraine, including funds, medical supplies, shelter, asylum requests, journalism efforts, technology, legal advice, and information about local peaceful protests.[4]

Similarly, TechforUkraine is helping to connect humans in tech with humans in need. On LeaveUkraine.com the non-for-profit organization offers border info, a map of available locations for food and shelter, missile alerts, and more.

There are so many initiatives going on. Volunteer editors use Wikipedia to cover events as they unfold. LA Times makes TikTok videos on how to prepare Molotov cocktails. Airbnb is aiming to host up to 100.00 Ukrainian refugees for free. Spotify playlists with support music for Ukraine are being made. Russian soldiers are looking for love on Tinder, and OnlyFans model gives out discounts to Ukrainian clients.

Memes, GIFs, tweets, videos, images, live streams are flooding the web to bring every person’s attention to the crisis. And people are helping however they can. The so-called “attention economy” may finally serve a noble, humanitarian purpose.

Private messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram are widely used for secure end-to-end encrypted communication for people in Ukraine (although Telegram is not end-to-end encrypted by default[5]). Also, the use of privacy-preserving tools such as Tor Project that helps with online anonymity has recently seen a spike in Ukraine.  

And then we have the blockchain and Web 3.0 initiatives.

As Jesus said:[6]

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Bitcoin and other digital currencies are intangible assets that circumvent the banks. They cannot be destroyed by moth and rust or stolen by thieves.  This tweet illustrates what I mean:

Huge efforts from the web 3.0 community are made to raise funds for Ukrainian organizations and people. Prominent examples of initiatives are UkraineDAO, RELI3F, and unchain.fund.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Ukraine is supported financially, humanitarianly, and with equipment from countries, companies, and civilians. They are attracting some of the best freedom fighters of the world and have the full moral support of the international communication system.

On the other side, Russia as a nation is being “cancelled”. No democratic country wants to have anything to do with them.  I don’t think it’s much different from how “the woke movement” has cancelled predatory celebrities, offensive comedians, and certain historical figures of the past.  The phenomenon of “cancel culture” is now taking on an entire country. As a result, I believe that Russia will be ostracized and its past great achievement will be overshadowed by dread and distaste from the international community, perhaps for decades to come.


[1] Zack Beauchamp (Feb 25, 2022)  Why the US won’t send troops to Ukraine -> https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2022/2/25/22949351/ukraine-russia-us-troops-no-fly-zone-nuclear-weapons (27-02-2022).

[2] https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/russia-ukraine-crisis-russia-blocks-access-to-twitter-facebook-news-portals-7800423/  (Twitter) (28-02-2022).

[3] Andrew Roth (The Guardian 26. Feb),  ‘Don’t call it a war’ – propaganda filters the truth about Ukraine on Russian media -> https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/26/propaganda-filters-truth-ukraine-war-russian-media

[4] Daria Kulish (March 2022), Tech Stands with Ukraine: Top 15 Companies Supporting Ukraine Following Russia’s invasion https://hackernoon.com/tech-stands-with-ukraine-top-15-companies-supporting-ukraine-following-russias-invasion

[5] https://mashable.com/article/russia-telegram-encryption (05-03-2022).

[6] Matthew 6:19-21.

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