Ukrainian Activists Bypass Russian Censorship Through Porn Ads

Ukrainian Activists Bypass Russian Censorship Through Porn Ads

MOSCOW — Ukrainian activists have reportedly started buying ad space on adult sites accessible in Russia to bypass Vladimir Putin’s ramped-up censorship efforts and provide accurate information about the invasion.

Adult sites are “perfect” conduits for disseminating information to counteract state propaganda, wrote Jemimah Steinfeld, editor-in-chief of “Index on Censorship,” in an opinion piece published by The Guardian over the weekend.

Steinfeld cited Ukrainian digital marketing expert Anastasiya Baydachenko as saying that adult sites offer “huge audiences” whose operators prioritize profits over politics and are therefore quite willing to take her money.

To counter Putin's aggressive policing of Russia’s internet, Steinfeld explained, Baydachenko came up with a simple plan: “Buy ad space across websites in Russia and Belarus and use them to link to independent news on the war in Ukraine. The adverts could be direct, or they could be oblique, even titillating, to conceal their true nature and evade the censors.”

Baydachenko first tried buying ads on Google, YouTube, Facebook and other high-traffic sites, but Russia’s “fake news” law undermined that effort — whereas the ads on adult sites, Baydachenko said, have reached hundreds of millions of internet users in Russia.

Last December, several months before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin increased pressure on open platforms through state regulators and the courts.

As XBIZ reported, Google was fined nearly $100 million for “systematic failure to remove banned content,” a term that encompasses any political and social messaging of which the Moscow government does not approve, along with almost all adult material online.

The December 2021 fine followed a series of reports by Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. The Washington Post reported that it was the largest such penalty yet in Russia, calling such fines Moscow's attempts to “rein in Western tech giants.” 

Meta — the company formerly known as Facebook, which also owns Instagram — was fined approximately $27 million for the same supposed crime against mandatory moderation.

“The fine represents an escalation in Russia’s push to pressure foreign tech firms to comply with its increasingly strict rules on what it deems illegal content,” wrote the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.

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