TUESDAY 15 MAR 2022 1:06 PM


Global internet censorship is on the rise, with autocratic states removing content that challenges their authority. Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit and non-governmental organisation working to defend press freedom, has launched a campaign using national lottery numbers to provide access to censored information in Russia, Turkey and Brazil.

Global internet freedom has declined for the eleventh consecutive year, according to the 2021 'Freedom on the Net' report from non-profit organisation Freedom House. With Russia's invasion of Ukraine triggering an increase in requests to support access to censored information in the Russian media, Reporters Without Borders launched an innovative campaign enabling access to censored content on Twitter. 

Developed with DDB Berlin and digital and innovation studio, Hyperinteractive, 'The Truth Wins' initiative is based on the belief that freedom of information is a fundamental democratic and human right. The campaign enables people living in censored states to access content from prominent, otherwise censored, journalists on a dedicated Twitter account. The Twitter handle can only be found by searching for the week's winning national lottery numbers.

By constantly changing the access codes each week, the content will move too quickly for the state censors to block the information. The code will also be publicised by state-owned media, further increasing awareness of the campaign and access to independent journalism. The resources will be protected from any kind of censorship, stored in blockchain-based archives in a decentralised peer-to-peer storage network.  

Sandro Heierli, senior art director at DDB Berlin, says, “I think the campaign provides an interesting user experience. Typing the lottery numbers into the twitter search bar and seeing that it works, makes you feel like you just hacked censorship on your phone.”

The Truth Wins initiative will provide a blockchain-based ENS-domain link that leads to an overview of independent new sources in Russia that are still accessible. Reporters Without Borders is also focusing its efforts on providing resources to its ‘Collateral Freedom’ programme which uses mirrors to provide access to blocked websites via new servers.

Censorship is not just an issue in Russia. In Turkey, the government controls 90% of the national media. Turkey also has the highest number of takedown requests on Twitter. Journalists in Brazil have been killed in connection with their work and face harassment, disinformation and self-censorship. The Truth Wins campaign will run in Russia, Turkey and Brazil with illustrations and interviews with independent journalists.

The launch video uses a combination of documentary-style footage to tell the story behind censorship and shine a light on the importance of press freedom. It contextualises the story in the current climate and touches on the regime in Russia, but also highlights the problem elsewhere. Can Dündar, a journalist in Turkey, says, “There are huge risks writing beyond the government. Just for one story they gave me 27 years of prison.”

The video then focuses on how the initiative works and directs viewers to try the latest codes on Twitter. The launch video raises awareness of the scheme and works to inspire hope as a song builds in momentum, repeating the works 'the truth will always find a way.'

The initiative was launched to coincide with the World Day Against Cyber Censorship on 12 March. “Press freedom is an abstract and often political topic. I think creativity can help to highlight its importance and make it more approachable to people,” says Tobias Natterer, senior copywriter at DDB Berlin