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Crowdsourcing Ukraine’s Rebellion

Ukraine's struggle to maintain Internet silence about troop movements in separatist-occupied areas. (American WWII propaganda post. Public domain.)

Ukraine's struggle to maintain Internet silence about troop movements in separatist-occupied areas. (American WWII propaganda poster. Public domain.)

Bloggers in Ukraine are turning to the Internet to publish the locations of troops in the country’s southeast, where the army is in the midst of a massive “counter-terrorist” operation against militants who have seized control of parts of major cities. A group called “Military Maps” on the Russian social network Vkontakte has created an application that allows any user to mark the location of soldiers and military hardware on maps of Ukraine. The service appears to be the work of separatist sympathizers hoping to provide rebel combatants with tactical intelligence.

“Friends! We won't forget!” [Image reads, "Attention: Ukraine's Ministry of Defense asks Internet-users to remain silent about the movements of Ukrainian army troops."]

“Military Maps” logs Ukrainian troop locations in occupied Slaviansk.

The accuracy and timeliness of “Military Maps” is questionable, but some Ukrainian bloggers are taking the threat seriously, spreading a message from the country’s defense ministry warning against discussing online the army’s movements. As early as mid-March this year, the Ukrainian government has cautioned citizens against revealing such information on the Internet. In mid-April, the mega-popular Twitter account “euromaidan” disseminated the same message again (see above), collecting nearly 900 retweets and favorites. Now, as Odessa slips into apparent anarchy and Kiev’s soldiers battle their way into cities throughout the southeast, bloggers are again calling on people to avoid posting about troop movements.

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