In the end of March, 2022, OPORA published an investigation "The Clutches of Russian Fraudsters or Where the Compassion for the Killed Ukrainian Heroes Can Take You " on the activities of a large-scale network of pages that were growing their audience through the manipulative clickbait content, specifically abusing the information about the KIA Ukrainian soldiers. 

The network included 30 Facebook pages that presented themselves as patriotic news accounts, and had their news websites. Interestingly enough, administrators of all the pages stayed in Armenia.

Over 30 days of the study, Facebook users were engaging with the content. They liked it, commented, and shared, almost 10 mln times (ab. 316,000 times a day, on average). In addition to the neutral likes, other prevailing reactions are sad emojis (2.62 mln). It proves that the content parasite sponged on the grief and compassion of readers. On average, the pages posted ab. 300 posts every day. 

To maintain the crazy outreach, the pages played with emotions: amazement at the feat of Ukrainian soldiers, joy for strikes at the enemy targets, and sadness for the death of our fighters. Obituaries had most of likes, comments, and shares but the credibility of the posts is questionable. In fact, the pages would often post fakes about the death of Russian and Ukrainian singers, actors, or other celebrities. 

OPORA found that the network was actively monetizing on the compassion expressed by Ukrainian users. They redirected the traffic to their websites with hundreds of ads. At the same time, the websites promoted financial schemes. In addition to profits, the scammers also got access to personal data of users. The profits are likely to land in the pockets of Russians. 

Two months after the publication of the survey, OPORA found that as of May, 2023, 20 out of 30 pages from this scam network had been blocked by Facebook. 

We are happy to see most of the pages from the network disabled, so that they cannot scam Ukrainian readers any longer. However, the situation also confirms the need to have an independent monitoring of social media as they are unable to efficiently moderate the content.

The Clutches of Russian Fraudsters or Where Compassion for the Killed Ukrainian Heroes Can Take You