Ukraine Crisis Facebook Video Garners Views Then Disappears


On the Facebook page of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UKMC) in Kiev, a link to a video with high production values was posted Sunday, allegedly produced by peace activists in Kharkov, garnered over 10,000 views by 7 p.m. E.D.T and became unavailable by 10 p.m. The link post responded to a post by Andriy Nelіpa, president of the fishermen’s union, in Kiev, with a video allegedly showing organizers of today’s protests. By midnight the peace video was no longer visible at its previous YouTube URL.

On the Facebook page of the UCMC, Oliver Yurkiw posted today what he appeared to know of unfolding events from the US: “In Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa, Nikolaev separatists really made the fur fly!” He was responding to a post by Andriy Nelіpa, allegedly the president at Gromada Ribalok Ukrainy, the fishermen’s union in Kiev, on that site. Yurkiw added a link to a video, apparently a well-produced peace video, which by 7 p.m. E.D.T. had received over 10,000 hits. Nelipa had included in his post a link to video showing what were allegedly organizers of today’s protest speaking with obvious passion. By 10 p.m. Nelipa’s video link was still visible, while the Yurkiw linked video was no longer visible at its previous YouTube URL. His comments were also not visible on the Facebook site. The Ukraine Crisis Media Center’s Facebook page showed video that garnered thousands of views, and then disappeared. Which of the many digital masterminds and advisers, schooled in propaganda, cyber war– and for Facebook, managing huge service loads– chose to shut it down. Who else did they talk to first?

At this moment of crisis diplomacy, the plea of Yurkiw in Park Ridge, Ill., to watch the video allegedly shot in his hometown of Kharkov, has a substantial and powerful social context. The details, however, remain obscure. The disappearances: of links on the websites of YouTube, together with the missing Facebook comments by Oliver Yurkiw, offer real-time insight into the manner of cyber war that this conflict brings. The possibilities of a blocked post include various possibilities, including server crashes or other overheated network phenomena.

The video shows calm, blue skies and groups engaged in peaceful activities, looking at petitions, taking photographs and speaking in English about their commitment to peace. There is a young male cameraman with an unobtrusive camera and mic. A woman talks with a colleague while gesturing with what appears to be a digital SLR camera. The piece appears well-produced, edited simply with apparent continuity of location, color and hue, and what might easily be a single-camera production. Colors are bright and saturated. Girls wearing traditional costumes have flowers and braids and vivid patterns on their clothes.

These are the indicators of media sophistication: high production values, good settings, unobtrusive camera. Early in the video, the mechanisms of free speech and journalism are given little cameos: folders full of papers displayed openly, cameras, microphones. These of course are the tools of good publicity and good tactical media management. This shares the production values of Russian propaganda, but the Kremlin and the Ukrainians and the Americans all have top media people. This foil to Russian propaganda shows similar emotional elements: happy people and earnest, hopeful speech, some of it in English. This could be propaganda for civil society, however.

As the Ukraine Crisis Media Center’s Facebook video garnered views earlier tonight, and then disappeared, a noteworthy cyber event is plain. At the time of writing, it appears that access to the site with the video may be temporarily unavailable. A previously functioning link brought up the message that the video “does not exist.”

Commentary by Lawrence Shapiro

Ukraine Crisis Media Center

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