Analytics

Social media at a service of Russian propagandists

Leonid Slutsky is the head of the foreign affairs committee in the State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament. He earned notoriety in Russia in 2018 after alleged sexual harassing of several female journalists. However, despite the public resonance, he was cleared by the Deputies’ Ethics Committee of the State Duma. He often writes about “provocations from Brussels” or the “hellish absurdity” of the Biden administration on his social media accounts.

This person, according to data revealed by DW, spends around 2 cents to buy a like or a repost on Facebook. The same rate applies to retweets when Slutsky’s posts need a little promotion on Twitter. For this purpose, he uses the Russian website bosslike.ru, which offers likes, reposts, views and increase of subscriber number in Telegram, YouTube and TikTok, and the popular Russian networks, Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte for some charge.

The more you pay, the faster and better result you get. Theoretically, anyone using the website can buy likes or retweets for Slutsky, or any other post or account — all that’s needed is a current email address. Approximate rates for the purchase of various types of activities are provided on the platform, the rest depends on your appetite. From the mid-March, all of Slutsky’s posts appeared on bosslike.ru.

Moreover, according to the Russian Peace Federation, organisation responsible for tracking the criminal activity of various people associated with the Kremlin lead by Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a group headed by Slutsky, was asking US senators in Washington for grant money. Meanwhile Slutsky’s social media accounts relentlessly criticize the United States and the European Union.

One of his recent posts says “it is not Russia that is pulling away from the EU but rather Brussels that is provoking confrontations.” This tweet received more than 170 likes. Almost all of 78 public accounts that liked the tweet came for the same Russian promotion site. The profiles were also filled with retweets of other posts listed on this resource, though Twitter flagged and suspended at least nine accounts since then due to suspicious activity.

Around 10% of the clients buying social media popularity are politicians. Another figure on the promotional site is Konstantin Malofeev, the Russian media czar and endorser of President Vladimir Putin. Being a supporter of Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, he lashes out against “the Kyiv junta” or the “godless EU” in his posts on a regular basis.

Another user of the promotional services is millionaire Oleksandr Feldman, a current member of the Ukrainian parliament and a former ally of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych. He is running for a position of the mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Social media likes on his posts help him to increase his quasi popularity.

According to the NATO StratCom COE, Russia is a leader when it comes to buying social media popularity. Almost all of the big software and infrastructure providers in this area are of Russian origin. According to the current available data, from 10% to 30% of all likes, reposts and views are associated with fake social media activities.

In terms of security, Twitter and Facebook are recognised to be the safest networks as they do their best to prevent manipulations. Another situation is with YouTube, Instagram and especially TikTok that pay less attention to combating bots and social media. Strange as it may appear, but paying for likes and subscribers as well as dealing with bot taking it for a real person still do not violate any current laws.

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