Journalists use Counter-Strike to sneak Ukraine news stories into Russia

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With Russia restricting access to its coverage of the Ukraine war, one newspaper is using Counter-Strike to share news with Russian players.

We’ve seen people try and use video games to spread fake news of the Ukraine-Russia war before, but now there’re an effort to do the opposite courtesy of a Finnish outlet.

Helsingin Sanomat, the largest subscription newspaper in Finland, has taken to Valve’s Counter-Strike video game to provide news updates on the war.

Since Counter-Strike allows players to create and upload their own maps, Helsingin Sanomat has done exactly that, with their custom map containing a hidden room full of reports and photographs covering the war.

The map itself is named ‘de_voyna’ as a reference to the Russian word for ‘war’ which Russia has prohibited from being used to describe the conflict with Ukraine.

If this seems rather random to you, it was done both to mark World Press Freedom Day (which is today) and as a response to Russia cracking down on independent journalism.

Helsingin Sanomat had initially began posting news coverage in Russian to reach an audience over there, but access to their content soon became restricted.

Upon learning that Counter-Strike has a sizable audience in Russia and is particularly popular among young men, it was decided to use the game to bypass those restrictions and inform Russian citizens of what’s going on in Ukraine.

‘As we have been widely concerned about the press freedom situation and freedom of speech in Russia, we decided that maybe it’s possible to find some new channels to provide Russian audience with some reliable, independent journalism for example about the situations in Ukraine,’ says editor-in-chief Antero Mukka.

Speaking with Reuters, he added: ‘If some young men in Russia, just because of this game, happen to think for a couple of seconds what is going on in Ukraine then it’s worth it.’

This wasn’t done with Valve’s approval and the company hasn’t issued any sort of statement on the matter, so it’s unclear if it will allow the map to stay up.

While many members of the games industry, like Sony and Nintendo, have pulled their games from Russia in solidarity with Ukraine, Valve continues to operate in the country.

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