Activists send secret messages to Russians using metadata


It looks like a photo of Vladimir Putin baring his chest. But hidden in the metadata — the written data in the PNG or JPEG file — are instructions in Russian on how to avoid censorship and access accurate news about the war in Ukraine.

The photo is part of a project called .PNG protestswhich also explains how anyone can easily edit a photo to share important information at a time when many people in Russia still don’t know the truth about what is happening in Ukraine and a recently passed law threatens anyone who uses “fake The military will pass on information about this 15 years imprisonment.

A Los Angeles-based creative agency was inspired to hide information in photos after reading a letter from Ukrainian creatives call on the rest of the world for help. “One of the things in this assignment that caught our attention was the search for ways to undermine Russian censorship,” says Brian Farkas, co-founder of the agency B&T creative. “We started talking about different ideas, and it was really lightning fast — I’m an artist with photography background — that maybe we could hide messages in the metadata.”

Others try to share news with Russians in a variety of other ways, from pop-up messages and ad tech to using lottery numbers as codes on social media.

Editing metadata is easy for anyone with Photoshop; All you have to do is open the file information and add text to the description. At the other end, the recipient just needs to be asked to right-click on the image and open “Get Info” or “Properties” to read the details it contains. The text can bypass surveillance by censors who monitor emails and phones.

Farkas and co-founder Tylynne McCauley started by sharing a guide from Meduza, a Russian- and English-language news site based in Latvia how to access news in russia via VPNs, mobile apps, the Tor browser, and other tools that can bypass blocks. But they hope that everyone who contacts colleagues and friends in Russia will start using the same approach. “This can really be used to send any information discreetly, from news to organizational information to anything that undermines the regime,” says Farkas. Activists send secret messages to Russians using metadata


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