Is Viber a Trojan horse? The mass bans of Ukrainian accounts
Once I found out that my Viber app can't sent any message, all messages were frozen with clock icons, which probably means "something in progress". Waiting a day, two days, a week and a bit more didn't bring any news...
Once I found out that my Viber app can't sent any message, all messages were frozen with clock icons, which probably means "something in progress". Waiting a day, two days, a week and a bit more didn't bring any news, so I've started to look what it means on Internet. And the problem is much more popular than my wildest prediction. Just a small note: this is Ukraine, 2023 and war time.
How Viber shadowban works
Viber's tactic is very cool: they don't tell you about the banned or blocked account. Why is that? The answer is easy: tons of Google searches like "banner account what to do?" are bad for product promotion, it's much better to hide them all wuth "nicer" looking error "can't send a message, please contact support". So the user forces to try to figure it for himself: check if Wi-Fi works, update to latest version and only then contact the support. "Perfect solution", don't you think?
Similar cases with short notes
Viber massively bans Ukrainian accounts, and this is not the hate post or fake news. Do you see a similarity in the following cases?
Viber blocked my account as spam. I'm trying to help a teen in a bomb shelter in Ukraine. Help me out.
I found a cool comic the other day and got in touch with the person that was writing it to help them with the English translation. They started making this comic when they had to go into a bomb shelter. A great tool was Viber because it automatically translates between Ukrainian and English. We don't speak each others languages so this has been a really important tool.
I could really use this tool moving forward but apparently I tripped the spam filter and now am permanently blocked with no recourse.
I am going to reach out through this and other public channels to see if there is way to fix this so I can keep talking with my new friend.
Viber has been blocked for sending spam, is there any chance to restore it?
I'm having a disaster, hundreds of chats with clients and Viber has been blocked.
Is there any way to restore it?
Because I received some kind of "sorry" in English, I hardly understood anything, and I can't copy and paste it into a translator (((
The post from another person:
I could not [to unblock it]. I wrote to support, gave the proof that the messages and photos were working drawings, not the advertising, they wrote back to me and said that they could not do anything. I had to switch to WhatsApp and quickly change the number.
Yesterday I sent a lot of invitations to the group. Apparently, for this reason blocked messages in general.
I wrote to support. Received an automatic reply from the system:
"Hello, your number was blocked in Viber due to spamming or unusual activity. The account was automatically blacklisted and cannot be unblocked. We cannot provide any further information at this time. Please do not respond to this email."
What a kind words to hear: "We cannot provide any further information" and "Please do not respond", especially if you are trying to contact a person in the shelter under shelling, rocket or drone attack.
Have you not resolved this issue? I have the same story today. Only I didn't write any messages at all and didn't send anything. I also wrote to the support service, but got no answer😢
They illegally block numbers. I had to register from all the numbers I have and again, they blocked all the requests with zero response. The quality of service is horrible, except for the bot - you cannot talk to anyone else.
I had to copy the previous comment. The same happened with my account.
Had to buy the third SIM card and again - it was blocked. I wrote requests and got zero response. Quality of service is horrible.
And take look at the dates of these posts: the most are from Spring, 2023.
The support send a message, probably the same for all blocked accounts:
Hello, Your number was blocked on Viber because it was reported as a source of spam or as a result of unusual activity. The account was automatically added to a block list and can not be unblocked. No further information is available at this time. Please do not reply to this e-mail.
In short it sounds like "just go away, we have no information and can't do anything for you".
Ukraine’s spy chief warns at dangers of using Telegram and Viber
By the founder of Petcube owner, Ukraine's spy chief warned him against using some popular messengers and said to speak about it in public.
In particular, Azhnyuk said that he had a conversation with Budanov and Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov about the risks of the use of Viber and Telegram.
In a personal conversation, the head of HUR said Viber is allegedly an application created for espionage. Even if a user does not conduct any correspondence through it.
How and where Viber has founded
Viber is now owned by Rakuten and was bought by Cyprus-based company Viber Media, according to Wikipedia page. Viber is very popular in Ukraine, monstly used for personal one-to-one chats, for channels Ukrainians prefer mostly Telegram.
Wikipedia hides the one important fact: Viber was initially developed by the Russian company Synesis Group with CEO Aleksandr Shatrov based in Minsk, Belarus. Yeah, the same country which provided their territory to Russians to attack Ukraine. The Synesus Group maintained Viber until 2016 as the contractor and what happened after Rakuten deal still unknown. The company also has offices located in Moscow, Baku and Astana.
Since 2020, Synesis has been under sanctions by the European Union, which found it responsible for the attack on freedom of speech and political repression by the Lukashenka regime in Belarus - the country provided Russia his territoty to attack Ukraine. Shatrov, the CEO, criticizes the protests and supports Lukashenka and Belarusian governmant and cancel Belarusian language(!) in the company's offices. Let's summarize: Viber developers are support totalitarian regime in Belarus.
Thanks to EU, they banned the company completely, denied their visas and froze all their assets.
In 2014, Viber was purchased by the Japanese company Rakuten.
Currently, Viber still have the office and hiring in Belarus:
- Viber careers
- Viber's HR Linkedin profile
How Viber helped Belarus to catch and jail anti-government protesters in 2020
Shatrov, the CEO, criticizes the protests and supports Lukashenka and Belarusian governmant and cancel Belarusian language in the company's offices.
That's not surprising, 'cause the Lukashenka called the app "Belarussian" himself: "I'm sure many of you are already using our developers' software. Such as the Viber app, for example."
Viber has protection by the Russian and Bellarusian governments, cooperates with the FSB (Russia) and the KGB (Belarus), the user data servers are located in the Russian Federation.
The laughable example: a Belarussian citizen was detained for a white-red-white flag on his Viber avatar! The man confirmed: he had publicly protested against the authorities by his avatar and fully confessed. The District Court sentenced him to 10 days of arrest.
Rakuten now in charge, but the company forced to use data stored in servers on Beralus due to local laws. And still hiring local people, who can easily be double agents: war still on the rise and Russia is very interested in private data of Ukrainian citizens: private messages, geolocations, contacts, photos and videos.
How to fight this abusive business style and prevent similar cases in the future
First, if you can, share this post - sharing is caring. Second move - go to Apple Store or Google Play and leave One Star review with the comment like "Stop blocking Ukrainian accounts for no reason!", because maximum publicity matters. Thank you for understanding.