UK

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Thousands In #BringThemHome Twitter Blackout Protest

22/07/2014 14:03 BST | Updated 22/07/2014 14:59 BST
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As anger mounts that the bodies from Flight MH17 have not yet been repatriated from Ukraine, you may have noticed a trend sweeping social media.

Many people affected by the Malaysia Airlines disaster have changed their profile pictures to black squares and are using the hashtag #BringThemHome.

The hashtag is most prevalent in the Netherlands, with its relatively small population of 16 million unified in mourning over the loss of 193 Dutch lives.

"Last night, there was a big snowball effect where everybody started to put their avatar on black to express their grief," says Remco Janssen, a Dutch social media expert based in Amsterdam. Many feel the government in the Netherlands is not doing enough to get them back, he told the BBC.

"If you do the math, and six degrees of separation, everybody knows somebody who knows at least one person who was in the crash," says Janssen. "We all know somebody who was on the plane. So it's really heartfelt. Some people even said that this was our 9/11."

The trend appears to have started on Facebook, with the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, being among the first to change his cover image on Facebook to a black background.

In a powerful speech at the UN Security Council on Monday, Timmermans berated the agents involved in delaying the investigations at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight and emphasised that The Netherlands will not rest until the truth behind the tragedy is revealed.

Many have also taken to Twitter to voice their outrage in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones.

Users are also turning their profile pictures black, as well as using the hashtag #BringThemHome, which has been tweeted thousands of times since the devastating crash.

Janssen told the BBC that although he doesn't expect the hashtag, or the black avatars, to have much effect on the growing crisi, he does believe that social media can help, in its own way.

"Social media is like the village square... I think it has a big psychological effect on everybody to have this place to discuss - it feels like a place where everybody has a sense of joint grief."

The hashtag has also been used in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US - all countries which lost citizens in the crash. In Australia, many shared the front page of the Sunday Times which ran with the headline "Bring Them Home".

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has since announced a major operation to secure and identify the bodies from the disaster.

Abbott said Operation Bring Them Home would be coordinated from Ukraine by former Australian Defence Force chief Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston.

There has been growing international outcry that the bodies of the dead have not yet reached their loved ones.

A refrigerated train carrying 280 bodies of crash victims arrived in the government-held city of Kharkov, Ukraine on Tuesday.

Forensic experts from the Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia are waiting to help identify the victims.

kharkiv

The train carrying the 280 bodies recovered from the downed Malaysian flight MH17

Victims of Air Malaysia Flight MH17 in Ukraine