Monday, December 5, 2022

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    Creative agency bypasses Russian censors by embedding news in pirated movies

    ‘ReCaptions’ campaign uses film captions to bring truth to Russians living in a disinformation bubble.

    Since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russian citizens have been blocked from international outlets such as the BBC Russian News Service and RFE/RL, as well as platforms including Facebook and Instagram. Others left voluntarily, including streaming giant Netflix which left the country in March 2022 in protest.

    This has left millions of Russians in a disinformation bubble, with 68% relying on TV for their news, leaving them vulnerable to propaganda. 

    Creative agency bypasses Russian censors by embedding news in pirated movies

    The creative solution, ReCaptions, was developed by Brussels-based agency Lucy, with the support of The Fix Media.

    Millions of Russians watch pirated movies and TV shows each year and many need to download Russian subtitles. To do so, they head to a myriad of websites such as The Pirate Bay (ReCaptions is keeping its list of sites it uses confidential).

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    “The core of the idea was to reach Russians who don’t watch the news much,” says Laurent Dochy, creative strategy director at Lucy. ”Hacking illegal downloads is an interesting way of sharing info about the events that are really happening in Ukraine instead of what they see on state TV.”

    By integrating news items, such as the bombing of the theatre in Mariupol or a train in Kramatorsk, ReCaptions brings important information to Russian audiences. The key is to have new items that would be both emotionally impactful and short enough to fit into the subtitle frame – basically a maximum of two lines. Importantly, it also then adds the source of the news – for example, The Guardian.

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