Counter-Terrorism revisited - Social Media Ukraine

Over the past week or so, a few entries have appeared here relating to the slide into sporadic and ad hoc standard forms of low level terrorism occurring beyond the boundaries of the war in eastern Ukraine.

The latest entries here, here, and the most cited of them across the Internet here.

Within the prose relating to societal resilience in the last link above, appeared this paragraph:

“Just as with the volunteer battalions that formed after Kremlin shenanigans in eastern Ukraine, following terrorist incidents there is often sections of the community that feel a “need to do something”. Channel that need into something productive – at the very least it reduces societal fear and/or tension.”

Quite so - human nature often demands a reaction to events, and a “need to do something” - even if in being seen to be doing something, very little is actually being done - as oft displayed by the political class in response to matters that temporarily irk the voting public.

The key is to channel the “need to do something” into doing something productive - and in the case of responses to terrorism, in doing something productive with societal inclusion, as that often reduces societal fear and/or tension.

Naturally it does not always do to have the public running amok and quite possibly compromising counter-terrorism operations, or indeed smudging the line between concerned and patriotic citizen to marauding vigilantes either.  To be quite clear, there were legitimate reasons for bringing the volunteer battalions into the military and Interior Ministry frameworks when they appeared - command, control, and legal accountability, being high on the list of reasoning.  Uncontrolled paramilitaries there cannot be, any more than unaccountable vigilantes, if rule of law is to be effective across Ukraine.

However, in the era of social media, each can play their part from the comfort of their own home, and in their spare time, when tracking down, identifying and informing upon those that seek to disrupt everyday life through acts of violence.

All that is required is a central collating node, and the ability of the citizenry that feel the need to “do something” to surf the social media websites such as VK and Odnoklassniki or local forums and social media groups.  After all, do we not all feel obliged to post photographs with rocket launchers or AK’s for our friends to see, or brag about barbaric acts, or indeed seek out like-minded people to ourselves?  Isn’t that what social media is for?

As such, a central node has appeared.

PSB4UKR.ORG has not only appeared, but has also had some successes.

It is no doubt also getting some attention from the 3 letter international intelligence agency alphabet soup, as well as the SBU who actively monitor the site - complete with SBU hotline number 0800 501-482, presumably not only urgent matters, but also for the “terrorist low level plankton” that suddenly find themselves featured and then decided to try and cut an amnesty deal of some sort.

It is not, however, an SBU front.

The website is run by volunteers and hosted on European and US servers - hence the Privat Bank donations option.  The plan for the site, eventually, is for it to become something like a Simon Wiesenthal Center, tracking down those who carried/carry out the most grievous of crimes.  Whether it will succeed in such a lofty goal remains to be seen.

As of yesterday, approximately 9,000 known and suspected terrorists have been identified via this website, with 150 detained (most at ATO checkpoints).  Bravo - though undoubtedly it will get harder and harder to collect and collate social media information on such individuals, as many that would identified will begin to delete their social media accounts to avoid appearing at PSB4UKR.

Although trial in the court of social media is definitely not a place to go, the collective gathering of evidence and submission to a central node for the authorities to sift through, seems an entirely appropriate response from society that is not only “doing something“, but is doing something that has already produced results.

A website to keep an eye on.