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Google restaurant reviews in Russia are flooded with messages in support of Ukraine

Google restaurant reviews in Russia are flooded with messages in support of Ukraine

UPDATE: March 2, 2022, 1:00 PM EST A Google spokesperson shared the following statement with CNET: “Due to a recent increase in content contributions on Google Maps related to the war in Ukraine, we have introduced additional protection to monitor and prevent content that violates our Maps policies, including temporary blocking of new reviews, photos and videos in the region. “

Restaurant reviews on Google have become a new digital territory in the fight against misinformation in Russia.

February 28, Twitter account @ Konrad03249040 twitret: “Join: find a random shop / café / restaurant in Russia in the big city on google maps and write in the review what is really happening in Ukraine. Feel free to spread the idea.” The post marked an account belonging to the hacktivist group Anonymous (@LiteMods) as then retweeted it to its 273,000 followers. The idea was later shared several times on r / Ukraine subreddit, which received hundreds of votes in less than 48 hours.

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Screenshot of retweet by Anonymous of original idea to post reviews

The post was soon retweeted by the hacktivist group Anonymous
Credit: Screenshot: Twitter / @LiteMods

The tactic is an attempt to bypass Russian state media and communicate directly with Russian civilians who may be ignorant or unable to access independent or credible news reports. Russian media are considered to be controlled and censored by the government, and are used to spread misinformation to justify the invasion and discredit those in solidarity with Ukraine.

Since the first tweet, users across social media have continued to post comments and screenshots of “reviews” left on Google pages for restaurants, hotels, malls, businesses and government buildings.

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A translated review shared on Twitter read:

“The food was amazing! Unfortunately, Putin ruined our appetite 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 the people of Russia. “

“Thanks for the idea. I only did 60 random places in Moscow,” a user responded on Twitter. Later that afternoon, Redditor u / Sveets_Drops commented “Just added over 50 reviews” in a thread on r / Ukraine subreddit and asked that their message be translated into Russian.

Tuesday morning, the best reviews for a Moscow restaurant called Romantic were the following:

A reviewer named Louise wrote in English:

“5800 Russian soldiers died today 4500 yesterday Stop your aggression [sic] Do not let your children suffer if you go to war, you will not return

Another review posted by Karolina:

“The food is good, but your leader is killing innocent people in Ukraine! Stop this war.”

reviews from a russian restaurant on google

Reviews appear Tuesday morning.
Credit: Screenshot / Google

Both reviewers gave the restaurant five stars, since users have encouraged each other not to harm businesses. Redditor u / Clipptube wrote in a post on Reddit, “Remember that it is 5 * for local businesses or privately owned, and 1 * for government buildings and facilities. Most Russians do not want this war, but can not actively speak out against Putin.” Another wrote in the description of their post: “And do NOT attack Russian people. They are not our enemy. Putin is all our enemies.”

In an attempt to effectively appeal to Russian civilians, some users suggest different rhetoric. “I have seen people consider bombing, but in a way that can confuse / discourage Russians! The idea is to have empathy and help them understand, provide easily digestible material,” wrote u / True_Destroyer.

However, some of the reviews were graphic and offensive.

But the movement is having some problems as some reviews on Google are already disappearing. The reviews mentioned above for the Romantic restaurant are no longer visible, and when sorted by last, the last post was from three months ago. However, the keywords from the missing reviews remain on the Google page: “children”, “soldiers”, “vladimir putin”, “invasion” and “rocket”.

Other Reddit users have encountered the same issue, saying their reviews were deleted or not accepted. Comments on a post that Google Maps deletes their posts offer ways to bypass it, such as changing the messages, including photos, and reviewing lesser-known places.

screenshot of google maps in moscow without post about the invasion

Later in the day, the reviews were gone, but the key words remained.
Credit: Screenshot: Google Maps

It is unclear who removes these reviews. This may be because the posts may violate Google’s Terms of Use. Mashable has contacted Google for comment and will update the story with a response.

But even before reviews stopped appearing, several users on Twitter and Reddit recommended switching to Yandex Maps instead, which is a Russian equivalent of Google Maps. Users explained that it is more prevalent in Russia than Google, although Yandex itself has been accused of censorship.

Will a post in a local cafe convince the Russians to condemn Putin and the Ukraine invasion? It remains to be seen. But the internet has never been more motivated to write a review.

UPDATE: March 2, 2022, 9:00 AM EST This post was updated with context about Yandex who was accused of censorship.

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