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Activism

People are leaving fake Google reviews to tell Russians what’s really happening in Ukraine

As the invasion of Ukraine continues, people across the globe are participating in an online ‘hack’ to get the truth to Russian citizens.

Thousands of people are flooding Google with fake restaurant reviews to tell people in Russia what’s actually happening in Ukraine.

The stunt comes after masked online ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous encouraged people to leave reviews for Russian businesses as a way to cut through the state propaganda. 

“Go to Google Maps. Go to Russia. Find a restaurant or business and write a review. When you write the review, explain what is happening in Ukraine,” the group told its 7.6 million Twitter followers on Monday.

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The group, which has told people to leave five star reviews, also posted a suggested message, which read: “The food was great! Unfortunately, Putin spoiled our appetites by invading Ukraine. Stand up to your dictator, stop killing innocent people! Your government is lying to you. Get up!”

This tweet alone was retweeted over 24,000 times, and has sparked an online trend. People have taken hold of the idea and are now offering their own suggestions of how to share well-hidden and direct messages. 

The online activism comes as Anonymous posted an ominous public message to Putin stating: “Members of Anonymous have declared Cyberware against [Putin’s] aggressive regime.”

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Multiple Russian media sites have been hacked over the last week with anti-war messages. Anonymous claimed responsibility for disrupting Russian and Belarusian websites of banks, state broadcaster RT, and a Belarusian rail network, as well as agencies and newspapers.

Russian state-run media has a tight grip on what news its citizens are able to access. Last week it said the country was involved in a small operation in Ukraine due to Ukraine seeking to provoke a larger war, according to The Guardian. And in a speech regarding the invasion, Putin described the leaders of Ukraine as a “band of drug addicts and neo-Nazi’s”

One review stated: “While you’re enjoying your food, Russian soldiers are killing men, women & children in Ukraine – peaceful people just like you & your family.  Putin makes Russian soldiers murderers & blackens Russia & its people’s name.”

Others provide examples of what’s happening in Ukraine: “Russian soldiers are killing innocent children and old people in Ukraine, shooting buses, bombing apartment buildings, kindergartens and hospitals. Your media and government are lying to you.” 

Some have also gone to Trip Advisor to write reviews, with one stating: “Take to the streets to show your support for Ukraine.”

Amid the rise in cyber activism, Anonymous – which uses a Guy Fawkes mask and a voice changer – has told Putin he will “feel the full wrath of the world’s hackers, many of whom will likely reside from your home country”. 

Other stunts seen since the Ukraine invasion include setting up fictitious companies in Russia on Google Maps with names of Ukraine cities, to describe the situation in the data. Another encourages Belarusian partisans to set fire to a control station to ensure Russians tanks and equipment can’t be transported to Ukraine. 

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