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Finnish grammar foils pro-Russia trolls

Attempts by trolls to write the sentence "Nato cannot save Finland" in Finnish failed because the language has two different words for 'save', with two completely different meanings.

Kuvakollaasi, jossa Twitter-sitaatteja. Taustalla Twitterin logo.
An account by the name Uolevi Aalto repeated the poorly-translated phrase "Nato can't save Finland" many times during February. Image: Maija Hurme / Yle
Yle News

As Finland moves ever closer to joining Nato, pro-Russia trolls have been trying to turn Finnish public opinion against the alliance, especially in advance of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

For example, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) and President Sauli Niinistö spoke on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, where Finland and Sweden were given the Ewald von Kleist Award for their decision to join Nato.

Later, an AI-distorted video clip of Marin appearing to encourage Finland to go to war against Russia was circulated on Twitter.

However, some of the trolling attempts have led to notable failures, especially when faced with a particularly worthy adversary: Finnish grammar.

One sentence, appearing to come from a Finnish user, has been widely repeated on social media and reads "Nato ei voi tallentaa Suomea". The phrase seems to have been translated via an online translator, and appears to be an attempt to write "Nato cannot save Finland."

There are however two words for the English word 'save' in Finnish: tallentaa (to save in the sense of recording or storing, for example a document) and pelastaa (to save in the sense of rescuing).

Jakub Kalenský, a specialist with the Helsinki-based Hybrid Centre of Excellence, has previously said that Finland should expect Russia to step up its hybrid and disinformation campaigns in the run-up to April's parliamentary election.

Such activity has been seen on social media over the past few days, but with trolls apparently using Facebook and Twitter less as they shift to other platforms.

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