Reading the 1-Star Reviews of Ukraine’s Military Conscription App

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As Russia’s war in Ukraine churns through its third year, Kyiv has lowered the age of conscription and launched a new app aimed at bringing more troops to the frontline.

People who aren’t happy with the app, Ukraine, or the new conscription laws are airing their feelings about it in the reviews for the App on Google Play and the App Store. A kindly but firm chatbot working for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence diligently listens to their concerns and tries to help when it can. Other times it lectures users about human rights.

Ukrainian men aged 18 – 60 have to register for military service, but the military only conscripts those 25 and older. Kyiv lowered that age from 27 earlier this year as part of a controversial new law that reformed the conscription process and includes harsh penalties for those who shirk service.

But finding conscripts requires Kyiv to know who, exactly, is in its country. The new mobilization laws required citizens eligible for military service to self-report some personal information by showing up at a local office and filling out paperwork within 60 days of the law’s passing. Don’t want to wait in line to fill out government paperwork? There’s an app for that.

On May 18, Резерв+, or Reserve+, hit the Google and Apple app stores. Prospective troops can use a Ukrainian bank account to log in and share details about themselves and their eligibility for military service. According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence, more than 3 million people have completed their paperwork and 569,397 have done it using Reserve+.

If app star ratings are to be believed, Reserve+ is not beloved. As of this writing, it has a 2.3-star rating on Google Play and 2.2 on the App Store. It’s almost all 5-star and 1-star reviews on both sites.

A lot of the 1-star reviews are people complaining about technical problems. A Viber-based chatbot appears to be responsible for the bulk of the replies.

“👋🏻Hi there! 📱Unfortunately, the details of your request are not enough to be studied by specialist,” Reserve+ says when someone complains about a technical problem. “Please submit request in the support chatbot with request subject, problem description, screenshot of the problem and any additional information requested by the bot to clarify the details. Best regards, Reserve+ support team.”

Other times, people leave 1-star reviews to file a grievance.

“While ‘Reserve+’ offers a unique and immersive experience, the ethical and safety concerns surrounding real-life recruitment into a highly dangerous war, along with the significant risk of death, make it highly problematic,” a one-star review on Google Play said.

Reserve+ responded with a hand wave emoji. “Thank you for sharing your feedback,” it said. “Together to victory! Best regards.”

Another user said the app, which again uses a Ukrainian bank account as its login, looked suspicious. “Looks like a fishing (sic) application,” said a one-star review.

“The Резерв+ team has carefully checked the human rights and has found no violations,” the support team said in response. “If You witnessed a human rights violation please contact us and our team will try to help You with the issue.”

“This application was developed by the Government of Ukraine to forcibly update the data of Ukrainians living abroad, and if they do not do this, then they will receive a fine of 25 thousand hryvnias, which is the equivalent of 500 pounds. This is a violation of human rights and freedom,” another bad review said.

Reserve+ explained that the app was only for people who “don’t want to waste time in queues at recruitment centers.”

A 1 star review on the App Store called out the app for aiding in sending users to war and complained about discrimination against men.

“This application contains the methods of the enforcement of unwilling death of its user,” the review said. “After the data actualisation (sic) you are becoming number one target for the police officers in Ukraine and you can be detained and sent to the battlefield against your own will. Personal data of this application is widely spread all over the internet and scammers already using it against you and your family. Using of this application may cause psychological traumas, diseases such as neurosis and psoriasis. This application is confirming the discrimination against the biological men.”

“👋🏻Hi there!” Reserve+ said, responding with its trademark friendly wave emoji. “Thank you for sharing your feedback! For assistance, please contact our chatbot. We will handle your inquiry, address your questions, and guide you through resolving any issues you may have: www.viber.com/reserveplusbot. Together to victory!”

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