On June 1st Maidan.org.ua started receiving inquiries about the disappearance of Mykola Sukhomlyn’s Facebook account. Ukrainian Facebook users were already familiar with Mykola’s ubiquitous jokes about Ukrainian politicians, so they were disappointed when his profile went down. We hoped that these were technical glitches. But this turned out to be not the case. Here’s what Mykola says:
“On the 17th of May, 2011, I published on my Facebook wall a video response to the publication “Donetsk oblast head recommends people to use their own money to fund public road repairs”, where he argued that the local budget could not cover the repair work due to a shortage of funds. video, shot by another Ukrainian blogger, Oleksiy Matsuka, shows Donetsk oblast governor Blisnyuk driving a customized S-class Mercedes, which cannot possibly cost less than $90.000.
The same day, the popular Ukrainian news site “Ukrainska pravda” published a report about this event that contained a link to my profile, which was later picked up by dozens of Ukrainian news resources. The next day I received anonymous “private advice” to take down the video and “tame down my eagerness”. Soon the “advice” became less friendly. Finally a man called and, without introducing himself, informed me that I would have to be dealt with.
During the next week I received Facebook messages with various threats. Anonymous users of throwaway accounts threatened to block my profile in the social network to prevent “spreading defaming information about Ukrainian politicians”. On the first of June, 2011, my account was taken down by Facebook.”
According to Mykola, Facebook did not bother to inform him about the termination of his account. Immediately after the termination Mykola contacted Facebook asking for reasons for the measure, but a response is yet to be received. He speculated that several complaints had been sent from fake accounts against the legitimate account, and the Facebook staff had followed them without looking into the matter.
Mykola Sukhomlyn’s Facebook profile (“Николай СУХОМЛИН”) was one of the most popular ones. For two years Mykola had been publishing his own political jokes (totaling several thousand), collected over a thousand of political caricatures, hundreds of videos making fun of Ukrainian politics. The profile became a center of Ukrainian political satire on Facebook, targeting all Ukrainian politicians regardless of their political agenda. Mykola had received threats before, but they were emotional outbursts and did not recur.
The shutdown of Mykola Sukhomlyn’s profile has already made headlines in Ukraine.
A Facebook event has been created called “Restore the account of Mykola Sukhomlyn!” where the latest news about the conflict are discussed.
Follow up – June 6 Facebook reported Mykola’s account was closed for copyright violations. June 7 – an owner of a humorous website “Durdom” had published his copyright claims (detailed article in Russian). We are waiting for Mykola’s comments on this.