Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin started to tighten his government’s grip on information. Not only blocking what average Russians can say but also preventing sources from broadcasting about the invasion to Russian audiences.
Putin’s actions and militant censorship have created an information vacuum, effectively cutting Russians from global communications. Websites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram went dark as the Kremlin inches closer to unplugging Russian citizens from social media.
But while major news outlets like BBC and Deutsche Welle are kicked out, it doesn’t mean that you can’t share information. Read on to see how hackers are helping Russians find out what’s happening in Ukraine.
Here’s the backstory
Neighboring countries have opened their borders to refugees, ordinary farmers and civilians have taken up arms, and millions of dollars in humanitarian aid have been sent to Ukraine through international fundraising events.
But all the money and support can’t get accurate information to the Russian people. To circumvent the censorship, a group of Polish programmers created the Squad303 website with one goal: to tell Russians the truth about the Ukraine invasion.
“Nearly 150 million Russians do not know the truth about the causes or course of the war in Ukraine. It is fed with the lies of the Kremlin propaganda. There is no free media in Russia, and the internet is censored,” explains the website.
What you can do about it
When you visit Squad303, it explains that the website gives you the tools to send messages directly to Russians without government censorship. First, you need to select your preferred method of communication between a text message, WhatsApp, or email. The system then randomly selects a Russian recipient.
No matter your choice, the message is already filled out in Russian. But there are a few things that you need to be aware of:
- When you select email, it will display the recipient’s email address along with a Send Email button. You can either click the button to send the mail anonymously or copy the address and send your own email.
- Send WhatsApp or SMS (text message) will generate text in Russian and display the randomly generated number. Unfortunately, you don’t have the option to send it through the website, so you’ll have to copy the number to your phone and send it from your device.
The Russian recipient can also see your mobile number through the latter process and might not take kindly to unsolicited messages. Sending war-related messages to random Russians can also land them in jail. Police have reportedly stopped people on the streets to check their phones for “undesired” communication.
The website’s name is also rather interesting, as it comes from the Royal Air Force’s 303 Fighter Squadron. The majority in the squadron were Polish, who eliminated the most significant number of German aircraft during the Battle for Britain in World War II.