From Etsy, AirBnB and Uber, to NFT and Crypto marketplaces, people around the world are using digital platforms in innovative ways to help victims of a senseless war.
Dr Paul Marsden
War in Europe. Three million+ Ukrainians displaced. Hospitals and kindergartens bombed. Thousands of lives devastated, traumatised, and lost.This was not the start to 2022 that anyone could have hoped for.
Least of all, the citizens of a ravaged Ukraine who are enduring a military invasion that has become a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe. There is little good in war, but it is heartening to see how digital technology is being used creatively to make a positive difference on the ground – where it is needed. Specifically, people around the world are using big digital platforms in creative ways to help those in need in Ukraine.
We call this creative ‘off-label’ use of digital technology ‘positive hacktivism’.
Of course, ‘hactivism’ is all about taking direct digital action (a combination of ‘hack’ and ‘activism’). Hactivism is closely associated with the questionable activities of the hacktivist group Anonymous, renowned for digital attacks that inflict harm on their targets. Positive hacktivism is different; it’s about adapting, modifying and transforming technology to help rather than harm.
And we’re seeing examples of positive hacktivism flourish during the dark days of War in Europe.
12 Positive Hacks for Ukraine
1. The AirBnB Hack – people are using the global property sharing platform to get money to Ukrainian hosts, by making and paying for ‘Solidarity Bookings’ – that will never happen. AirBnB itself is getting involved by waving charges, as well ‘hacking’ their business model by promising free short-term housing for Ukrainian refugees.
2. The Etsy Hack – people are also harnessing the global arts and crafts e-commerce platform to get money to Ukrainian creators, by paying for digital downloads. Creators are also selling themed products, and donating proceeds to humanitarian aid in Ukraine
3. The OpenSea Hack – people are using the growing NFT platform to buy and sell digital collectables, with proceeds going to aid providers in Ukraine. The Vandalz for Ukraine: WhIsBe x Wladimir Klitschko NFT collection (pictured above) alone has collected over $180,000.
4. The Google Docs Hack – people are exploiting Google Docs to create crowdsourced public directories of resources for war victims. Digital professionals have their own shared Google Doc to coordinate digital help, and a Google Workplace site lists resources for volunteers who want to help
5. The Uber Hack – people are getting creative with the ride sharing platform to get goods to Red Cross centres in Poland. Uber itself has waived ride fees, and has been providing free trips between Poland and Ukraine
6. The Telegram Hack – people are using the messaging platform to create and coordinate a roving ‘army’ of digital and tech professionals who can provide help when it is needed most
7. The TechToTheRescue Hack – it’s home territory for this online platform that matches non-profits with tech companies to solve the world’s problems, but people are using the platform creatively to solve urgent tech problems in Ukraine
8. The BlaBlaCar Hack – the ride-sharing platform ‘hacked’ its own business model to become an evacuation service. The platform did this by waiving its commission and inviting its 17,000 drivers to ferry 50,000 people to safety
9. The Crypto Hack – People are making use of cryptocurrency platforms to make donations to Ukraine. More than $60 million in crypto donations have been received since the Ukrainian government launched an appeal last month following the invasion
10. The PayPal Hack – people have set up crowdfunding pages on PayPal and on other crowdfunding platforms to collect donations
11. The Amazon Hack – it’s simple, but effective. People are using the e-commerce platform to make donations via a prominent front page donation button. Amazon is also putting its cybersecurity capabilities to the service of Ukraine
By hacking technology to help people rather than harm them, digital shows it can be a powerful force for good.
Dr. Paul MarsdenDigital Strategist SYZYGY GROUP
‘Positive hacktivism’ is not all about using big digital platforms in new and novel ways. Across Europe, teams of digital entrepreneurs, start-ups and agencies are also adapting cheap or opensource platform software to create up innovative ‘pop up’ platform services to match Ukrainians in need of help with people offering help.
Pop-up Housing platforms
- Berlin Helps Ukrainians (telegram)
Pop-up Job platforms
Pop-up Friendship platforms
Digital for Good
Of course, negative voices will say all this ‘positive hacktivism’ is not really the most effective way to help.
Sure, if you have digital skills, then the best way to help will be to sell your work, and then hit an online donate button one of the many professional humanitarian aid organisations that have been mobilised to help, such as the Red Cross/Crescent. And if you don’t have digital skills, then just hit the online donate button. It’s that simple.
Nevertheless, the creative spirit of positive hacktivism is to be celebrated. By hacking technology to help people rather than harm them, digital shows it can be a powerful force for good.
So, we invite you to join us and become ‘positive hacktivists’ and help digital make a difference for good.
We are not Anonymous. We are #PositiveHacktivists.