Following the Twitter account of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom every single day for the last ten years is a requirement for keeping up to date with the largest copyright infringement case of all time.
It’s also pretty depressing, not to mention exhausting. Copyright law has always been controversial, but rarely this political or to these depths.
Dotcom’s association with massively successful tech platforms and his ability to inspire positivity among certain sections of the tech community has largely given way to a quagmire of anti-American politics generously dipped in conspiracy theories. Or, depending on perspective, the hidden truth that ‘they’ don’t want you to know about. Dotcom was hit hard by the US Government and he’s been trying to return the favor for more than a decade.
In a mostly free world where discourse is encouraged, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having alternative or even unpopular opinions. It’s Dotcom’s Twitter account and it carries his views. Anyone who doesn’t like them is free to immediately unfollow and read about something else.
Those without that option will have read many times that if there is something bad in the world, the ‘US Empire’ is either directly behind it or playing a key manipulating role. Whether it’s the takedown of Megaupload, COVID-19, financial and/or fuel crises, the control of the mainstream media, or a lack of interest in the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, look no further than the US Government.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is absolutely no different, at least according to Dotcom’s tweets since February. While it may appear that Putin is the aggressor, Dotcom says he was deliberately pushed into attacking a neighboring country by the cunning of the United States, which provoked a proxy war to weaken its enemy by expending Ukrainian lives, not those of Americans.
Geopolitical Security Advice to Save The World
Just a few days after Putin sent tens of thousands of soldiers across the border, Dotcom had all the big answers to the world’s most pressing problem. None of them involved stopping the killing by reversing an invasion. All of them involved giving Putin exactly what he wanted, critics on Twitter wrote.
To find peace, Dotcom said that Ukraine needed to meet Russia’s demands right away, including the surrender of more sovereign territory and a formal acknowledgment that territory already lost was so important to the Russia, it should stay in Russia’s hands.
In the wake of none of these things happening, accusatory fingers were pointed at the United States while EU countries and the UK were called out for being its puppet states. Warnings of WWIII became ever more frequent but sympathy for ordinary Ukrainians barely entered the equation.
Accusations of Russian Propaganda
When Dotcom’s messaging started to align ever more closely with Russian propaganda, including that an invasion was required to ‘cure’ Ukraine of its ‘Nazi problem‘, people began to complain in greater numbers on Twitter, where Dotcom enjoys around 880K followers.
Not that many regular users would’ve noticed much opposition. All seriously dissenting tweets found themselves hidden over the coming months, leading to the impression of an audience in total agreement. Then the Ukrainian government did something extraordinary.
Dotcom Gets Put on a List
Faced with a physical war that had already killed thousands of its civilians, mained thousands more, and seen children abducted and relocated to Russia, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation stepped up its online efforts.
Part of that was putting Dotcom on its list of ‘Russian propagandists’.
Dotcom welcomed the move and said it was his pleasure to be able to “educate people about the reality of this US proxy war.” Those who had their angry responses hidden on Twitter tended to disagree, but the power to hide a tweet would soon be rendered a footnote as the war of words spilled across account borders.
With tensions increasing around what was once a polarizing but mostly peaceful Twitter account, last week Dotcom posted yet another of his famous polls to weigh the opinion of his like-minded audience. Like one in April, which questioned whether Joe Biden (Dotcom’s nemesis from the Megaupload raids) or Vladimir Putin was the biggest threat to the United States, another landslide in Russia’s favor was expected. That didn’t happen.
This sudden balancing of opinion stood in stark contrast to previous Dotcom polls where the United States and/or Joe Biden had come out as massive losers. Dotcom obviously wasn’t happy and a day later, following an investigation, he came to the conclusion that foul play was responsible.
“The result of this poll has been manipulated. Before the manipulation began 90% of the voters said that the United States is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Until Twitter has a solution against state sponsored bot armies I will not do polls,” he declared.
So which state-sponsored bot army had gotten under Dotcom’s skin? After stirring up a hornets nest of anti-United States and anti-Ukraine sentiment, it appears that Dotcom had gotten himself ‘bonked’ by NAFO, a bunch of outrageous cartoon dogs with an attitude problem. Dotcom wanted them out of his head.
“I recommend a feature that allows targets of mass online vandalism to block every user who has ever posted under a vandalism hashtag like #NAFO,” Dotcom added in his Twitter outreach.
NAFO – Anti-Russian Propaganda Shitposting Meme Lords
The North Atlantic Fellas Organization (NAFO) is an online group that raises money for Ukraine, including by having their memes painted onto rockets destined for Russian hardware. NAFO also actively counters what it sees as Russian disinformation and propaganda, often using the most ridiculous means possible.
Anyone is free to join the self-professed shitposting movement and many do so by simply adding a Shiba Inu dog image to their social media profiles. From there, the modus operandi is making a mockery of anyone who dares to put their head above the parapet. Here’s a brief explainer from DW.
— Dream💭 (@DreamsPirate) September 18, 2022
Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov made the mistake of taking on NAFO during the summer and, just like Dotcom, believed bots were hounding him. But they weren’t bots. NAFO is a real, entirely decentralized people-powererd group, and they never quit.
After being mercilessly lampooned, Ulyanov took a week offline to let things calm down. When he reappeared online, apparently after taking a pre-booked holiday, NAFO were lying in wait ready to resume where things left off.
An article published by The Economist notes that NAFO successfully hides its information warfare role behind flippancy but Dotcom being Dotcom – a veteran of the internet – may have underestimated just how effective ‘The Fellas’ are online. So he called them out on his home territory – the internet – and sought help from Twitter to level the playing field.
The CIA and Ukraine Let The ‘Attack Dogs’ Loose
“@Twitter has a #NAFO problem. An army of social media attack dogs run by US and Ukraine intelligence services. Western media and social media are bombarding us with anti-Russia propaganda. An information warfare operation to control the narrative, win the PR battle,” his opening tweet began.
“That’s why Langley [CIA] and Kyiv have created a social media army that any useful idiot can join. Under the #NAFO hashtag US operatives direct their attack dogs against Twitter users who are critical about the US proxy war. Even politicians who want this war to end are being targeted,” he complained.
“I think @Twitter should have a look at this @jack,” Dotcom said in a tweet directed at Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
“This problem can destroy Twitter. Shareholders should be very concerned. Unchecked organized state sponsored social media vandalism will lead to a user exodus. There are also several breaches of Twitter ToS at play here.”
No Help From Twitter, No Escape From The Memes
The response from NAFO was quick, massive, and overwhelming. Meme after meme after ridiculous meme. Then more memes, more ridiculousness, and then #kimdotcom began trending on Twitter.
At what point Dotcom decided that enough was enough is unclear. Frustrated NAFO members reported in English, Ukrainian, German, French, Spanish, even Russian, that Dotcom had blocked them from participating on his account.
Dotcom ultimately locked down his Twitter account so that only people he follows or mentions can participate in his threads, limitations that remain in place at the time of writing. But could be peace be achieved in other ways?
Dotcom Diplomacy: Let’s Talk
Since most wars are the result of failed negotiations (or parties disinterested in compromise), Dotcom decided that negotiating with the NAFO shitposters – diplomatically, like adults – would be a good idea. In an outcome nobody could predict, the meeting on Twitter Spaces was an absolute farce.
While his opinions are clearly offensive to Ukrainians, to his credit Dotcom tried incredibly hard to put his ideas over in a clear and methodical fashion. When less patient people would’ve backed out, he kept his cool like a seasoned professional.
The reality, however, is that the NAFO representatives screwed around with Dotcom for around 45 mins. In small ways (continuously muting his mic ‘accidentally’) and in more significant ones, such as giving the impression they were finally ready to listen to his points, allowed him a few seconds of momentum, then found a way to derail him, often in an absurd way.
As one participant pointed out to Dotcom towards the end – we’re NAFO, what did you expect? It was perhaps the only moment that made sense in the entire ‘debate’.
“I joined a talk with #NAFO on Spaces and I think they aren’t a useful asset to any propaganda operation,” Dotcom wrote after negotiations broke down.
“They don’t know how to debate. They can’t present a coherent argument. No interest in opinions that aren’t theirs. They just shut you down in a fanatic fashion. Well, I tried.”
Then on Saturday, NAFO supporter, discussion participant, and Kyiv Post special correspondent Ivana Stradner, who also works at the nonprofit The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, published a private message sent by Dotcom. It appeared to suggest that she was being watched. By whom wasn’t made clear.
“I see people say that his message is sexual in nature. No, that’s not true. He is just upset because of my writing on Russia as he has been Russia’s mouthpiece for a long time. This eyeball sends a different message,” Stradner wrote in a follow-up message.
None of this helped Dotcom to defeat NAFO. Not even labeling Stradner as a Deep State operative did much good. If anything, it made things considerably worse.
After someone pointed out his comment about Ukraine’s ‘Nazi problem’, it was always a possibility that Dotcom’s ownership of a signed copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ would get brought up – which it did, in the ‘debate’ and time and time again on Twitter.
Then came the images of Dotcom in a WWII German helmet with an SS logo on the side supported by the somewhat inevitable Downfall memes.
This portrayal of Dotcom’s supposed ideology is almost inaccurate. As he said in the debate, he also owns historic items that belonged to Churchill and Stalin. But in this shitposting war, especially one that seeks to overwhelm perceived misinformation in any way possible, that doesn’t matter one bit. Everything is a weapon when it comes to stopping Putin, nothing is off limits.
In pure terms, Dotcom is 100% right that a chaotic mob has undermined his ability to have his own opinion on a controversial topic and air that in public. For a man with unquestionable talents and an extremely sharp mind, one can only imagine the frustration of not being ridiculous enough to mount a meme counteroffensive, one that doesn’t detract from his serious messaging about dark forces supposedly pulling the strings in Ukraine.
Strangely, in early September Dotcom appeared to be actively recruiting on Twitter to do just that. Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to get things organized. Perhaps there was no interest, it’s hard to say, but it wouldn’t have worked anyway. It’s impossible to create a ‘NAFO’ artificially; the stars simply align, NAFOs are born, and then they grow on their own, powered by passion. Decentralized beats centralized every time.
So Has Peace Broken Out?
All internet meme wars eventually fade away but there is a wildcard here – Kim Dotcom doesn’t give up. He doesn’t even know how to give up, it’s not in his DNA, and it’s never an option, so this may not be the end of the matter. Perhaps a more interesting question is how this relatively tiny conflict can be viewed through the prism of the Russia/Ukraine war itself.
Like Dotcom, Russia doesn’t want to give up. Like Russia and Dotcom, Ukraine doesn’t want to give up either. But at some point, something will have to give.
Perhaps NAFO will be happy if Dotcom bends to their will and gets off the internet, as was suggested early on in their war of words. Dotcom won’t, of course – the internet is his home and why should he leave it? But then that calls into question Dotcom’s solution for peace in Ukraine, which requires Ukraine to give up parts of its own country to stop the carnage.
As for a solution that would suit Russia, even after seven months nobody seems to know what the goals of Putin’s ‘Special Operation’ actually are. All the finger-pointing in the world won’t change that.
But one man can still stop this – and the whole world should pressure him to do so. Kim Dotcom should be able to enjoy his beautiful, naturally lit surroundings in New Zealand…..
My view driving home 🏔👀 pic.twitter.com/sP00OP62yT
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) September 20, 2022
….and Ukrainians should be free to enjoy theirs, minus the incendiary munitions. If people aren’t working towards this, they shouldn’t be surprised to be called out as part of the problem.
Ozerne village, Donetsk region. Ukraine.
This is horrible. pic.twitter.com/RbX9AF3SeG
— Roman Hryshchuk (@grishchukroma) September 20, 2022