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Russia: Google Bus Stop Ads Hacked

While Russia and the U.S. were holding meetings on cyber warfare [ENG], Russian activists took the process of hacking from virtual space to real bus stops in Moscow where they slightly altered original Google ads.

A group of online activists with obscure-sounding Web site Ovoscham.net that can be translated from Russian as “No to Vegetables” changed several Google ads on Moscow bus stops with the ones that looked exactly the same but had not-so-subtle political messages. A post on Ovoscham.net titled “The Action 3″ briefly describes [RUS]  the process of hacking Google in real life:

В Москве были заменены рекламные плакаты Google. Так как визуально плакаты мало отличались от оригиналов, владелец рекламных площадей компания Wall не заметила подмены и плакаты провисели три недели и сняли их, когда настоящая рекламная кампания Googlе закончилась.
Для простоты приобрели комплект спецодежды за 700 рублей и еще за 500 нанесли на них логотип владельца рекламных площадей. Суммарная стоимость плакатов составила 3000 рублей. Все сделано на личные средства.

Google ad posters were changed in Moscow. Since the changed posters were not that different from the original ones, the firm Wall, an owner of ad spaces, did not notice the substitution and the posters were there for three weeks and were taken down when the actual Google ad campaign ended.
To make things easier, we bought a set of clothes [to look like representatives of “Wall” – V.I.] for 700 rubles [$23-V.I.] and paid additional 500 rubles [$16-V.I] to add there a logo of the ad spaces owner. A total price of the posters is 3,000 rubles [$99-V.I.]. All that was done using private funds.

An original Google ad looked like this:goooogleOriginal

It listed search queries like “accepting foreigners into the Russian Army,” “Jacobin ideology,” “If my girlfriend is older that I” by different historical characters and book and fairy tale heroes. The original ad encouraged people to find out who could have made those queries by going to Google.ru.

Russian activists slipped some reality into the Google campaign by coming up with this:

GoogleChabgedThe changed ad had different search queries: “Road police without bribes,” “Government for citizens,” “Construction without kickbacks,” “Alternative during elections,””Fun without alcohol,””Active civic position” and “Television without lies.” Sentences under the queries read: “You can find it on the Web. But can you find it in your country? It's up to you!

Ovoscham.net also privided a video of “The Action 3″:

The reaction of Russian blogosphere was largerly positive but did not go beyond general and slightly distant praises. Comments on Ovoscham.net mainly consisted of cheers like “Well done!” and few suggestions to help with money.

Many users also questioned the effectiveness of the action. A blog post on Roem.ru, for example, pointed out [RUS] a “traditional long distance” between people and those “who like to express their opinion.”

Впрочем, ажиотажа у вывешенных плакатов не наблюдалось, что показало традиционную даль “желающих высказаться” от народа, хотя щит и был размещен рядом с популярной площадкой на Воробьевых горах. При этом и надписи были весьма мелкими, поэтому даже стоящим рядом в пробках автолюбителям, наслаждение высоким искусстовом было недоступно.

However, there was no hype around the poster, which showed a traditional distance between people and those “who like to express their opinion,” despite the fact that the poster was hung near the popular square on the Vorobyov Hills. In addition to that, the letters were too small. That is why even nearby drives stuck in traffic couldn't enjoy the high art.

Comments on the forum Yaplakal.com [RUS], although approving the work done, were also pessimistic about any real effect of the action:

толку не много, население не поймет. что за унылый подход. нужно шатнуть людей! EshiK28

not a lot of results, people won't understand. what a dismal approach. One needs to shatter people! EshiK28

толку от этого просто 0. все это знают, но делать никто ничего не собирается. потому что смысла в этом нет. slavyano

The results are zero. Everyone knows it but nobody is going to do anything about it. Because there is no point.slavyano

идея хорошая, теме крест. поймут конечно многие, только отношение такое же как у большинства – “это хорошо, конечно ребята придумали, но я лучше пройду мимо”GoldFly

The idea is good. Many people will understand, of course, but their attitude is exactly like the attitude of the majority: “It's good, of course, that those guys though about it but I'd rather just walk by.” GoldFly

This reaction is pretty typical for the majority of blog posts that mentioned the hacked Google ads and comments that those posts generated. This example may show how Russian online activism can go real-life but it seems like an impact of the real-life action in the country is still as small as a couple of bus stops lost in a big megapolis.

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