• Newly created fake profiles, identical comments, anonymous pages from Indonesia, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates and more than half a million lei invested in just one month to promote Ilan Shor’s protests

    Newly created fake profiles, identical comments, anonymous pages from Indonesia, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates and more than half a million lei invested in just one month to promote Ilan Shor’s protests
    by
    31 October 2022 | 16:03

    Thousands of comments praising Ilan Shor flow daily on the fugitive MP’s Facebook pages and on pages affiliated with his party and his activity. Analysing the profiles of the most active commenters, ZdG found that most of those “praising” the MP convicted in the first instance in the bank fraud case are in fact fake profiles, created just at the time when the anti-government protests of the Shor Party began.

    At the same time, pages with names that look odd for Moldova, such as Joanna Perry, Mercedes Nelson, or Wilma Colon, with administrators from Indonesia, Argentina, or the United Arab Emirates, invite people, through sponsored posts with hundreds of euros, to participate in the events of the Shor Party.

    The official page of Ilan Shor made paid posts with tens of thousands of euros. Only between September 29 and October 28, 2022, during which people were brought and paid for participating in the protests, Shor’s page paid over 26,000 euros in sponsoring the posts, so that these would reach an audience as big as possible.

    “We love you, Mr. Shor.”
    “Those from Shor Party are a handful of people in Parliament, but they do as well as all 100 deputies.”
    “If there were people like Shor in charge, we would live just like in Monaco.”

    These are just a few examples of laudatory comments posted on the Facebook page of the fugitive leader of the Shor Party, Ilan Shor.

    New profiles created using nicknames
    One of the most active profiles on Shor’s page is Ramiz Ivanova. “Our society has always been afraid of rich people, but Shor broke every stereotype in that he never stood aside when his support and help were needed,” she comments.

    Ramiz Ivanova’s profile was created on September 17, on the eve of the start of the protests. It does not show friends or other personal data specific to real Facebook accounts. The only activity of this profile is the distribution of posts from the Shor Party page.

    Another active commentator is Gleb Tcaci, who comments: “Shor must also think about a larger team of deputies because in the next elections he will have at least 5 times more than now.”

    The user starts his “activity” on Facebook on September 11, and starting from September 18, he shared only a certain type of content – Ilan Shor’s and his party’s posts. The profile does not show any personal data or friends.

    Cristian Gurin, another user, with a blocked profile, writes “We love you Mr. Shor”.

    Efim Bratan reveals his feelings towards the leader of the Shor Party, and his only post is a video transmission of Ilan Shor. The same Efim Bratan appears on another post, with another comment, placed twice. “Those from SHOR are a handful of people in Parliament, but they do as well as all 100.”

    Galina Borș comments in the same way, only on another post. She started her “activity” on Facebook just recently, on September 11.

    “If people like Shor were in charge, we would live just like in Monaco. I rely on what I saw that was done in Orhei”, writes Nazario Tcaci. He placed the same comment on another post by Ilan Shor. The profile was created on September 29th and after a few days of “activity” it was deleted.

    The above comment can also be seen on other posts of Ilan Shor, but written by another user – Segolene Moraru. No posts are available on her page. We can only see that she follows the pages “Orășelul Schimbării” (The City of Change) and “NOI.md на русском”.

    The same “users” also write comments on other pages affiliated with Shor
    “Orășelul Schimbării”, a page created on September 18 which actively promotes the protests with people brought by the Shor Party, has hundreds of comments on the posts that redistribute Ilan Shor’s videos. It’s just that the hundreds of likes and comments are generated by the same users, who publish exactly the same messages as on other pages.

    For example, we find there Efim Bratan, with a comment also found in other posts – “The SHOR Party is a political force in Moldova and they will prove it in the next elections”. On the “Orășelul Schimbării” page we also meet other already-known profiles, such as Ramiz Ivanova and Gleb Tcaci.

    Anonymous pages from Indonesia, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates promoting the Chișinău protests
    In the week before the October 9 protest, Facebook users in Moldova were “bombarded” with sponsored posts, coming from obscure, newly created pages with administrators in Indonesia, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates.

    On October 3, the Julius Logan page posts an announcement about a new Shor Party protest with the message “We will not stop.” Although accessing the page, we notice that it has only 17 followers, the post has gathered more than 4,000 likes, more than 900 comments, and 300 shares. This impact is exclusively due to the fact that the post was sponsored with hundreds of euros.

    Under the photo illustrating the call to protest published on another page, titled Joanna Perry, a text in Russian appears. „Выходите и протестуйте. Не за кого то, а за свои интересы. За нормализацию цен, за тепло в вашем доме” (Go out and protest. Not in support of someone, but in your own interest. For normal prices and warmth in your home.).

    Although the audience of this page is 20 followers, the post about the protest gathered over 3,000 likes, almost a thousand comments, and about 300 shares. Again, by paying hundreds of euros.

    On October 4, the same picture about the October 9 protest is also shared on Wilma Colon‘s page, which has only 12 followers. With a lot of money invested, however, this post also gathered over 5,000 likes, almost 2,000 comments, and over four hundred shares.

    Mercedes Nelson, another page managed from Asia, is calling people to protest under the same slogan published on Joanna Perry’s page. In this case, the post had thousands of interactions, even though the page’s audience is only 19 followers.

    All these pages were created on the exact same day – this September 20th, and the thousands of likes, comments, and shares did not come naturally as a result of user interest but were obtained exclusively thanks to sponsorships, i.e. promotion with money.

    Over half a million lei (26,000 euros) for sponsorships/advertisements on Ilan Shor’s page in just one month
    Moldova Reunion, another page that intensively promotes the same protest, spent 9,427 euros for six ads run only between September 29 and October 28.

    On September 29, another page was created – Tinerii Moldoveni (Moldova’s Youth). “The population of the City of Change is increasing every day”, is the message with which the page is promoted. The page’s ad library indicates that it is currently running ads, but we can’t see the amount spent on promotion.

    On another page from the group of those who promote the protests with money, Noutati Moldova (News Moldova), it is indicated that, between September 29 and October 28, those who administer it spent 1,378 euros.

    For advertisements on social and political themes, Ilan Shor’s official page “invested”, between October 22-28, 2022, over 3,000 euros. And between September 29 and October 28, 2022, during the protests in front of the Presidency and the Parliament, the page ran ads worth over 20,000 euros. In total, between July 31 and October 28, 2022, Shor spent over 50,000 euros, i.e. around one million lei, for the advertisements.

    Expert: “The purpose of these fake accounts is to induce support for the Shor Party in the online environment”

    Andrei Fornea, an expert in social media, defines fake profiles, also called “trolls”, as people who, hiding under a false identity, try to convince the audience to accept the political and social arguments that they have the mission to promote.

    Andrei Fornea, social media expert

    “The purpose of these fake accounts is to induce in the online environment a support for the Shor Party, a support that, in fact, does not exist and can only be done artificially.”

    At the same time, Fornea says that the impact of pages created abroad, which sponsor certain posts, is greater than that of trolls.

    “These paid advertising methods are much more dangerous than trolls because trolls only create quarrels in the comments, their effect is limited. As for the pages created abroad, which pay for their advertising with money from not-so-decent sources, they can reach a very large number of users, even hundreds of thousands of citizens of Moldova”.

    “Taken together, they represent a vicious circle that is used to favor the Shor political party”, concludes Andrei Fornea.

    This article is created within the project ‘Stop fake/Stop hate’, implemented by Ziarul de Gardă in partnership with and with the financial support of Amnesty International Moldova
    AUTHOR MAIL sabinrufa1@gmail.com

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