- Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was released Tuesday after Russian officials dropped drug charges that had been brought against him last week.
- Golunov said that he had been framed because of his reporting on government corruption.
- Russian journalists responded by launching a multi-day protest, and prominent Russian newspapers called for his release in a move experts have said was unprecedented.
Russian government authorities dropped drug trafficking charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov Tuesday, following significant backlash and protests from Russian journalists and media over his arrest.
Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement that the charges had been dropped because of a lack of evidence.
“According to the results of biological, forensic and fingerprint examinations and DNA testing, a decision was made to terminate the criminal prosecution of citizen Ivan Golunov due to the lack of evidence of his participation in the crime,” Kolokoltsev said in the statement.
Golunov was arrested and detained by police on Thursday, and after an invasive search, the officers claimed to have found drugs in his backpack. The police also said they found more drugs and other paraphernalia when they searched his apartment.
He was later charged with drug trafficking and taken to prison, though he denied the charges and said he was framed because of his reporting on high-level Russian corruption.
Suspicion Around Arrest
Others were quick to echo Golunov’s accusation against the police.
Golunov, who is well-known in Russia for his investigative work, had been writing for an online publication called Meduza, which is Russian-owned but is operated in Latvia to avoid persecution.
Following Golunov’s arrest, Meduza published a statement online defending him and arguing that his imprisonment was politically motivated. “We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent,” the statement said. “Moreover, we have reason to believe that Goll-Loo-Noff is being persecuted because of his journalistic activities.”
Meduza also outlined suspicious activities surrounding Golunov’s arrest. According to the statement, Golunov’s lawyers requested that the police test his hands and nails to see if he had touched narcotics. The police refused.
Meduza also said that Golunov had been beaten by police when he was detained, but when he and his lawyer requested he go to a hospital he was again denied. Meduza additionally noted that Golunov had received threats over his work in recent months
Following the arrest, the police launched their own publicity campaign, publishing nine “incriminating” pictures of drugs and a pharmaceutical scale that they claimed they took at Golunov’s apartment.
However, several journalists quickly established that the pictures were not actually taken in his apartment. Shortly after, the police backtracked and admitted that most of the pictures were in fact taken elsewhere.
After the police fumble, even the Russian government acknowledged that there was conflicting information in the case.
“We have paid attention to the corrections that were later published, and we also proceed from the fact that there are several issues that are in need of a clarification,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
On Friday, Russian journalists launched a protest in front of the police headquarters in Moscow.
Under Russian law, protestors are required to get permits two weeks before planned demonstrations, but the protestors came up with a clever solution. Instead of all protesting together, activists took turns standing one at a time and holding a sign for 15 minutes or so and then passing the post off to the next person.
People lined up down the block to take turns to be the one-person protest. Reportedly, the line was so long that people waited for hours.
Unsurprisingly, police special forces moved quickly to detain about a dozen protestors, including some prominent Russian journalists who were held in custody for a little while before being released.
However, the line kept getting longer and longer, and those protests continued all weekend, even moving to the court where Golunov was set to appear for a hearing.
At the same time, a number of Russian celebrities and artists took to social media to call for Golunov’s release, and argued that his arrest was a violation of freedom of speech and an important test case for rule of law.
Russian Newspapers Express Support
The most surprising move came on Monday, when three leading Russian business newspapers published the same exact front pages with the headline: “I/We are Ivan Golunov.”
While all three of those newspapers are private rather than state-owned, all of them are usually very loyal to the Russian government.
After that, even a few very prominent pro-government broadcasters express skepticism about the case. Additionally, a petition calling for Golunov’s release reportedly received 7,500 signatures from other journalists, including those who worked for state-owned outlets.
As a result, experts have described the act as an unprecedented expression of solidarity with another journalist, as well as an unprecedented defiance of the Kremlin.
While Golunov’s release is an exciting and watershed moment for journalists in Russia, many wonder if it is just a one-off occurrence. Russia has long been criticized for its treatment of independent journalists, and just recently, have significantly ramped up their censorship efforts in the past few months.
In March, Vladimir Putin signed two new laws that would punish anyone who spread “fake news” or insulted the government with heavy fines and jail time. Under those laws, online media can be reported to the government, which then can block access to websites if the content that violates the law.
Golunov’s arrest was also not an isolated incident. On Friday, Meduza published an article listing 8 other journalists and activists who have gotten prison time for “drug charges” over the last few years.
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (CNN) (BBC)
Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos
The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.
Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws.
For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform.
The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.
It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end.
The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions.
First Twitch Hack
Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.
That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already.
Twitch Blames Server Configuration Error for Hack, Says There’s No Indication That Login Info Leaked
The platform also said full credit card numbers were not reaped by hackers, as that data is stored externally.
Login and Credit Card Info Secure
Twitch released a security update late Wednesday claiming it had seen “no indication” that users’ login credentials were stolen by hackers who leaked the entire platform’s source code earlier in the day.
“Full credit card numbers are not stored by Twitch, so full credit card numbers were not exposed,” the company added in its announcement.
The leaked data, uploaded to 4chan, includes code related to the platform’s security tools, as well as exact totals of how much it has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
Early Thursday, Twitch also announced that it has now reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Streamers looking for their new keys can visit a dashboard set up by the platform, though users may need to manually update their software with the new key before being able to stream again depending on what kind of software they use.
As far as what led to the hackers being able to steal the data, Twitch blamed an error in a “server configuration change that was subsequently accessed by a malicious third party,” confirming that the leak was not the work of a current employee who used internal tools.
Will Users Go to Other Streaming Platforms?
While no major creators have said they are leaving Twitch for a different streaming platform because of the hack, many small users have either announced their intention to leave Twitch or have said they are considering such a move.
It’s unclear if the leak, coupled with other ongoing Twitch controversies, will ultimately lead to a significant user exodus, but there’s little doubt that other platforms are ready and willing to leverage this hack in the hopes of attracting new users.
At least one big-name streamer has already done as much, even if largely only presenting the idea as a playful jab rather than with serious intention.
“Pretty crazy day today,” YouTube’s Valkyrae said on a stream Wednesday while referencing a tweet she wrote earlier the day.
“YouTube is looking to sign more streamers,” that tweet reads.
“I mean, they are! … No shade to Twitch… Ah! Well…” Valkyrae said on stream before interrupting herself to note that she was not being paid by YouTube to make her comments.
The Entirety of Twitch Has Been Leaked Online, Including How Much Top Creators Earn
The data dump, which could be useful for some of Twitch’s biggest competitors, could signify one of the most encompassing platform leaks ever.
Massive Collection of Data Leaked
Twitch’s full source code was uploaded to 4chan Wednesday morning after it was obtained by hackers.
Among the 125 GB of stolen data is information revealing that Amazon, which owns Twitch, has at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library. That library, codenamed Vapor, would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
With Amazon being the all-encompassing giant that it is, it’s not too surprising that it would try to develop a Steam rival, but it’s eyecatching news nonetheless considering how much the release of Vapor could shake up the market.
The leaked data also showcased exactly how much Twitch has paid its creators, including the platform’s top accounts, such as the group CriticalRole, as well as steamers xQcOW, Tfue, Ludwig, Moistcr1tikal, Shroud, HasanAbi, Sykkuno, Pokimane, Ninja, and Amouranth.
These figures only represent payouts directly from Twitch. Each creator mentioned has made additional money through donations, sponsorships, and other off-platform ventures. Sill, the information could be massively useful for competitors like YouTube Gaming, which is shelling out big bucks to ink deals with creators.
Data related to Twitch’s internal security tools, as well as code related to software development kits and its use of Amazon Web Services, was also released with the hack. In fact, so much data was made public that it could constitute one of the most encompassing platform dumps ever.
Streamer CDawgVA, who has just under 500,000 subscribers on Twitch, tweeted about the severity of the data breach on Wednesday.
“I feel like calling what Twitch just experienced as “leak” is similar to me shitting myself in public and trying to call it a minor inconvenience,” he wrote. “It really doesn’t do the situation justice.”
Despite that, many of the platform’s top streamers have been quite casual about the situation.
“Hey, @twitch EXPLAIN?”xQc tweeted. Amouranth replied with a laughing emoji and the text, “This is our version of the Pandora papers.”
Meanwhile, Pokimane tweeted, “at least people can’t over-exaggerate me ‘making millions a month off my viewers’ anymore.”
Others, such as Moistcr1tikal and HasanAbi argued that their Twitch earning are already public information given that they can be easily determined with simple calculations.
Could More Data Come Out?
This may not be the end of the leak, which was labeled as “part one.” If true, there’s no reason to think that the leakers wouldn’t publish a part two.
For example, they don’t seem to be too fond of Twitch and said they hope this data dump “foster[s] more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space.”
They added that the platform is a “disgusting toxic cesspool” and included the hashtag #DoBetterTwitch, which has been used in recent weeks to drive boycotts against the platform as smaller creators protest the ease at which trolls can use bots to spam their chats with racist, sexist, and homophobic messages.
Still, this leak does appear to lack one notable set of data: password and address information of Twitch users.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the leakers don’t have it. It could just mean they are only currently interested in sharing Twitch’s big secrets.
Regardless, Twitch users and creators are being strongly urged to change their passwords as soon as possible and enable two-factor authentication.