Digital Fight for Ukraine

Ever since the start of the Maidan Revolution, the global Ukrainian Diaspora has been helping Ukraine fight the information war. One of the Diaspora initiatives is DigitalMaidan which was launched on January 24th with a Facebook event page.
The New Pathway talked to DigitalMaidan’s founder Andrea Chalupa of New York, NY and discovered that for their first Twitter storm, which was intended to raise awareness of the human rights crisis in Ukraine, ninety-nine people were invited and they hoped for 200 people to join. Two days later, 30,000 people had been invited, and within minutes it made Ukraine the number one trending topic on Twitter worldwide, beating out Justin Bieber and the Grammys.
DigitalMaidan’s messages on Twitter reached over 11.6 million in its first week alone; the initiative essentially created a media organization for Ukraine overnight. This was at a time when the Western mainstream media was hardly covering the crisis and there were many lies being spread by respectable outlets that were falling for Russian propaganda.
Chalupa says that DigitalMaidan has gotten a lot of support and interest from the non-Ukrainian community too. Some of it has come from including Tweets in over half a dozen languages, including Hebrew and Dutch. Huffington Post France did a big write up about DigitalMaidan’s activism; the Prime Minister of France wrote #digitalmaidan a message of solidarity on Twitter in both English and French. Some of DigitalMaidan’s supporters have included Bianca Jagger, the actor and comedian Russell Brand, and Garry Kasparov.
The organizers have been invited to speak to the press, speak on panels and write columns which has helped raise awareness about Ukraine and also fact-check Putin’s propaganda machine. DigitalMaidan constantly promotes articles that debunk Russian lies which are primarily included in the news reporting of Russia Today (RT). DigitalMaidan stresses the need for everyone to factcheck newspaper articles and TV materials, and they provide factchecks themselves.
Currently, DigitalMaidan has thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter. But what’s more important is that people in the global Ukrainian community know to come to DigitalMaidan if they want to do start a Twitter storm. The initiative has worked with organizations in Canada, the UK, and of course Ukraine, and has basically become a social media hub for Ukrainian activists. DigitalMaidan’s closest working partners are EuroMaidanPR, EuroMaidanPress and Razom.
Chalupa reflects upon a problem that Russian-backed propaganda, RT channel for instance, is a popular alternative to mainstream media. She says that a lot of intelligent, open-minded people will repeat Russian propaganda when it comes to discussing the Ukrainian crisis. Chalupa thinks that many people are disillusioned with mainstream media and generally “the establishment” after George W. Bush used corrupt means to drag the US and its allies into needless wars that are still going on today. Some in the media, including even the New York Times, supported his agenda. Then soon after, there were the revelations of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden.
There’s a real sense among many that the West is living on the brink of Orwell’s 1984, and people tend to trust alternative media now more than ever, Chalupa says. Russia Today plays upon people’s interests in all things anti-establishment and seems like champions of the people by promoting Wikileaks and Snowden stories which blast the US. But they also simultaneously brainwash people into believing the Kremlin’s lies about Ukraine. Chalupa says that, ironically, Russia Today is the establishment and a crack-cocaine dealer of lies.
To counter Russian propaganda about the situation in Ukraine, Digital Maidan from late January through July this year has ran regular Twitter storms, sometimes daily, which have generated thousands of tweets that share credible articles debunking the Kremlin’s lies. Chalupa notes that back in March DigitalMaidan ran Twitter storms every day, when the lies were still making it into the mainstream media on an appalling level. But now, she says, Putin has made their jobs easier by just being “utterly stupid and maniacal” and “not only the world’s worst enemy but his own”.
DigitalMaidan was also one of the first voices to pick up the idea of boycotting Russian goods – especially after the annexation of Crimea in March of this year. Chalupa says that DigitalMaidan is now focused on shaming FIFA for their continued support of Russia and for their keeping the World Cup in that country in 2018. DigitalMaidan launched a petition which received 10,000 signatures for that particular boycott. There has also been protests against multinationals like Lukoil and Exxon Mobile however Chalupa admits that although the group should do something more against these companies, they just don’t have the time: “we’ve been driving attention to the fact that they’re drilling in Russia but it’s more about keeping people educated about who’s profiting from Russian money.”
It should be noted that the boycott of Russian goods is very strong in Ukraine, especially with the development of a smartphone app to help identify goods made in Russia. The app called “Boycott the Occupiers” was developed and launched in April 2014. It is not known if the app is compatible to Canadian barcodes, however, if the bar code begins with ‘460’ or ‘469’, the good was produced in Russia.
DigitalMaidan is also organizing protests against individual supporters of Putin: if they know of a close Putin ally who will be attending a meeting somewhere, they will help promote a protest against that person. Chalupa also adds that DigialMaidan will have a twitter storm next month to raise awareness about the French “Minstrel” ship sale to Russia which is going ahead despite the arms sanctions in place.
Chalupa would like all Ukrainian organizations to know that if they would like to work on their social media campaigns, they are welcome to contact her. She’s there “to help anyone who wants to run an effective media campaign to promote the truth about the Ukrainian crisis” and not just rehash Russian propaganda and lies.
To counter Russian propaganda and limit its influence, Chalupa suggests to get on Twitter and write messages that share links to factual articles, using the hashtag #Ukraine. Twitter is seen as the pulse of the people, and journalists and producers scan it for story ideas and information. The more fact-driven voices there are on Ukraine, the louder the truth will become.
Andrea Chalupa advices to follow DigitalMaidan on Facebook to find out about their Twitter storms and other events, at DMaidan.com/FB

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