Belarus propaganda spends public money to manipulate reactions on Telegram

They resort to "poos" and "likes" and try to imitate the "voice of the people" / collage by Ulad Rubanau, Euroradio
They resort to "poos" and "likes" and try to imitate the "voice of the people" / collage by Ulad Rubanau, Euroradio

The last two weeks saw strange things happening iwith reactions to posts n the Telegram channels of independent media outlets. Hundreds of "poos" or "likes" appeared under some posts - something totally abnormal. At the same time, tracing the narratives that those involved in scrambling for reactions are trying to promote in this way is possible. Here are the main ones:

Lukashenka is good

Within minutes, 124 "dislikes" appeared under the Euroradio post that Turkish President Erdogan had outplayed Lukashenka. A similar thing happened under the text of our colleagues about the changes in Belarus that will take place after Lukashenka's death.

Власти Беларуси тратят бюджет, чтобы манипулировать реакциями в телеграме

A post about Siarhey Tsikhanouski's birthday attracted a hundred and fifty "thumbs down" and more than 160 "celebrations" about the recognition of another dozen detainees as political prisoners.

The detention of designer Vadzim Bahriya also received an unusual number of "celebrations" and "thumbs up," and the new trial of Nina Bahinskaya received more than seven hundred (!) approving reactions.

They don't like Ukraine or the volunteers

Reactions are also being artificially added under posts about Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky gets dislikes and "poos," as do posts about the country's successes in confronting Russia.

Negative reactions also appear under posts about Belarusian volunteers, broadcasts involving them and just their mentions.

The opposite is true of Russia: reactions create the illusion of support for it. For example, the news about the initiative to recognize its diamonds as "blood diamonds" received a lot of negative reactions.

The Dems are not in their favor either

Posts about Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and her United Transition Cabinet, as well as civic activists and bloggers, are also in the spotlight. For example, more than a hundred "thumbs downs" appeared within a few minutes under the announcement of the Euroradio broadcast with Aliaksandr Knyrovich.

The authorities are doing everything right

Prime Minister Halouchanka's statements about the "dizzying success" of the Belarusian economy get a lot of positive reactions. And the news that the credit rating of Belarus is worse than that of Ukraine - on the contrary, seemed to cause a negative reaction from users.

Власти Беларуси тратят бюджет, чтобы манипулировать реакциями в телеграме

"Supportive" (judging by the reactions) are things like negotiations with Zimbabwe, adding ideology to school curricula, and new vetting standards for potential officials.

A story about a Homiel official who runs propaganda channels also received "popular support."

Cheap likes

You can get a hundred "reactions" in Telegram for just a few Russian rubles at particular online exchanges. There you can choose what kind of reactions they will be - positive, negative, the "celebration" or "poo." In theory, anyone can do this by paying and attaching a link, but here you can see that this is being done systematically: reactions appear quickly and throughout the day.

Власти Беларуси тратят бюджет, чтобы манипулировать реакциями в телеграме

The propagandists' obvious beneficiaries of scamming: they portray the screenshots as "people's opinions" and try to simulate a public consensus on several issues in this way. Thus, it is essential for readers of telegram channels to remember that in such a case, the anomalous number of reactions under the posts speaks not about the "majority opinion" but only about the propaganda's interests.

Propagandists sometimes "rig" the polls in Telegram channels as well. Here are the latest examples: supposedly, most readers of one of the channels think that political prisoners should ask Lukashenka for pardon. There have been several similar cases, also on political topics: people allegedly support the authorities and condemn "fugitives." However, such shenanigans are more costly than reactions. 

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