The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been nothing short of heartbreaking. But the dissent within Russia itself appears to be widespread, and to avoid harsh censorship rules, citizens are now embedding protest sentiment within Google restaurant reviews, reports Mashable.
It first started with a tweet from user @Konrad03249040, who said, “Get involved: find a random shop/cafe/restaurant in Russia in big city on google maps and write in the review what’s really happening in Ukraine. Please spread the idea.” Then an account run by hacker collective Anonymous, @LiteMods, retweeted it to their more than 283,000 followers, and later, the concept was posted multiple times in subreddit /r/Ukraine.
Russian state-run media is tightly controlled and a known source of misinformation, so to circumvent standard outlets, social media users are cleverly inserting their disgust for the war in the form of restaurant reviews. The digital protesters are hammering away on Google business pages as well as a similar Russian service called Yandex Maps.
For example, one review purportedly shared on Twitter as well, said:
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! google “Kyiv” and putler [sic] and share it with all people in Russia.
A restaurant called Romantic, located in Moscow, was a hotspot for protest reviews. A user named Karolina wrote, “Food is great, but your leader is killing innocent people in Ukraine!!! Stop this war.”
Reviewers on Reddit are encouraging each other to give local businesses five star reviews, and give government-affiliated reviews one star. But not all of it is going smoothly; some users have been posting graphic images. Reviews are being pulled down, and I’ve verified that protests previously left for Romantic in Moscow have all been removed.
It has not been determined who is removing these reviews. Because the comments might be violating Google’s terms of service, it’s possible Google is taking them down. And despite the fact that people are trying to protest on Yandex Maps too, it’s not a surefire bet, because the service has also been accused of censorship, according to a piece by Business Insider.
Knowing the internet’s tenacity to band together in massive groups to support a cause, I have a feeling that despite censorship, we’ll still be seeing creative ways for Russian citizens to voice their opinions. Social media is a powerful tool, and knowing how persistent people can be, I know the fight is nowhere near over.