How are manipulative junk websites connected and what do they disseminate?
Upon thorough analysis of their content, we have concluded that these pages are manipulative junk. Below we tell you why.
When did they appear?
Four groups have recently emerged, two on March 14 and two on March 21, 2023. According to their official pages, all of the groups have a related Telegram channel with a similar name. This channel was created on March 17.
In addition to these groups, we discovered two more pages associated with “The military speaks”. The first is named “The military speaks (CrazyNews)”, and the second is called “Voice of the ordinary people of Ukraine”. They share the same main photo, and were created several years ago for a different purpose. These groups originally posted information regarding job vacancies in Poland, as well as instructions on how to obtain a job invitation, and what documents were required for employment abroad, etc. However, around mid-February 2023, both groups began to post emotional videos from Tik-Tok and Telegram.
What do they disseminate?
The content that is being shared in all of these groups can be characterized by the phrase “total betrayal”. Here are a few examples: “Turn off the one and only marathon and turn on reality”, “Watch this video and tell me who’s stirring up the situation”, “Our guys will come back from the frontline and solve everything”, “This is how our defenders are being fooled”.
Most of the time, these groups are filled with Tik-Tok videos that are a response to the latest events that are being actively discussed by Ukrainians, such as the beating of a soldier in a church, rudeness towards a soldier in Bukovel, and the sale of humanitarian aid. Some of the videos were recorded by real soldiers, but they were accompanied by emotional headlines and video comments from unknown individuals, presumably group administrators. Thus, the message intended by the authors of the original source is distorted. Many of the videos relate to the issue of summons for military duty. Moreover, these groups don’t shy away from sharing videos of such well-known fake newsmakers as Hula and Stakhiv.
While these groups do not have many followers, some of the pseudo-patriotic videos have garnered tens of thousands of views.
Who shares the content?
The manipulation is already evident in the names of these groups. Although they are named “The military speaks,” the administrator of the Telegram channel at the very least has no connection to the Armed Forces. The posts are shared by an administrator identified as Serhii Pekh. When groups such as “The military speaks (CrazyNews)” and “Voice of the ordinary people of Ukraine” were disseminating information about their work in Poland, we discovered a video message created by Serhii Pekh.
We found a person with this name on social media, who has a YouTube channel, and pages on Facebook and Instagram. He identifies himself as an expert on the legalization of Ukrainians in Poland, a blogger-influencer with a half-million audience. Additionally, we found an interview in which Pekh states that he has been living in Poland for four years and that his primary activity is “providing truthful and useful information about the legal stay of Ukrainians in Poland on various platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and TikTok”. This interview was posted in the “special project” section, i.e., on a commercial basis, and advertised a money transfer service.
Why was the group created?
In their Telegram channel, the administrator claims that “the military has the right to hear the voice of the people” and “the soldiers want to see real news”. In reality, the authors exploit the military, taking advantage of the high level of trust and support that the Armed Forces have. According to a survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in 2022, this support reached 96%.
Military-related accounts and videos have become quite popular, with thousands of followers. The groups’ name “The military speaks” is not a coincidence. It creates the illusion that the page is run by someone who is currently at the frontline. And, video messages allegedly created by them are used as a guarantee to increase the number of subscribers.
In our opinion, the groups were created for monetization purposes. One way to make money is to resell the group. It is not uncommon for SMM specialists to promote a page or group as much as possible, attract as many subscribers as possible, and then sell it. They may also be planning to increase the number of clients who, having watched the manipulative videos, may want to leave Ukraine for Poland with the admins’ help.
“The military speaks” groups are basically junk communities that are manipulative and operate according to the methods of russian propaganda. They utilize emotional appeals and manipulation to increase their audience. Even if the groups were created purely for commercial reasons, they still aid the enemy by discrediting the Ukrainian military and manipulating public opinion. You have to admit that watching video messages from the military every day, where they talk only about negative things, can lead to despondency and low morale. This way, manipulators are undermining Ukrainian society. Additionally, their claims that “only here will you learn the truth” and “the authorities are silent about it” foster distrust of official sources of information.
To prevent being misled by such groups, it’s important to always verify information, especially if it evokes strong emotions. Do not share posts online that you cannot confirm, and avoid joining unverified groups