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How ads are being used to tell Russians the truth about Putin’s war


  • A Ukrainian woman uses porn and gaming sites to tell the truth about Putin’s war in Ukraine.
  • Anatasiya Baydachenko, CEO of the Ukrainian IAB, says the block rates on these sites are lower.
  • Index to Censorship chief editor says you should “go all out” to combat misinformation.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced millions of people to take up arms against Vladimir Putin’s forces, but others are fighting back in less conventional ways. Anastasiya Baydachenko among them.

The CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Ukraine is using still image ads as well as video ads on porn and gaming websites in an effort to tell Russians and Belarusians the truth about the conflict in Ukraine.

Baydachenko told Insider that advertising on these sites made sense because it was easy and affordable, and increased the chances that Russians and Belarusians would see them.

Despite the lack of a tracking system to assess effectiveness, he believed that about 80% reached Russians and Belarusians. “Adult and gaming sites have a Russian audience, and ad platforms can sell us that traffic.”

Although the approach was not very important, “it is one more tool” that should not be discarded, Baydashenko said. “We strongly believe that we should try to give real messages to those who have suffered decades of state propaganda.”

The Insider reported shortly after the invasion that Putin’s disinformation was so effective, many Ukrainians could not convince their families in Russia that they were under attack.

Low ad blocking rates are low on these sites, he said, compared to larger sites like YouTube that have moderator groups. However, her biggest challenge is funding.

Baydachenko said using porn sites was a good way to reach Russians, but he did not rule out much larger platforms run by Meta and Google, even if stricter policies make it harder for them to do so.

Jemimah Steinfeld, its editor-in-chief Index to Censorshipa non-profit organization that campaigns for free expression, said that to fight censorship, you have to “go all out”.

However, he warned: “We should also be aware that when advertisements for war appear they may not always be received as intended.

“When you’re given a one-sided story, the other side could just be dismissed as propaganda. That’s why those placing ads in Russia might choose more stories that are harder to ignore — like inflation.”

“Certainly in the case of Facebook, it was seen as a big enough threat that Russia moved to block it,” Steinfeld said.

Indeed, Russia criticized Facebook for “restricting the official accounts of four Russian media”. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s technology and communications regulator, he said the day after Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine.

Steinfeld added: “We’ve seen that social media can work against free expression – algorithms can be a blunt instrument, blocking both important information and misinformation. But, we shouldn’t underestimate their role in informing our war and disinformation. human rights violations.”

In May, Insider reported that Russian officials spent $8 million on VPNs that allowed them to evade the country’s online censorship.

Baydachenko added: “There is no independent media and the media that is traditionally called opposition or alternatively is at least partially – if not fully – directed by the state. There is no news on air, only recordings – so we just keep a smile while we read the opportunistic TV news editor comes on air with a poster.’

Marina Ovsyannikova, editor at Russia’s state television Channel One had interrupted the channel’s main news program on March 14 with a sign that read: “Don’t believe the propaganda. You’re being lied to here.”

Baydachenko concluded: “I am sure that Russia uses the same methods as the former KGB: blackmail, torture, psychological pressure and others to make journalists obedient.”



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