Warning re. suspicious group impersonating an EU body or pro-EU civic organisation

  • 26.10.2018
  • Author: Editorial office

ODF has recently learned of a group or individual impersonating an EU body or pro-European civic group under the name “European Union Anti Corruption”, which seems to be running a paid, targeted smear campaign against the Foundation.

We have been notified by several contacts in Brussels EU institutions about paid advertisements appearing to them on Facebook with obviously fake claims related to our Foundation (e.g. that we want to “bring down an EU government”, “hold a licence to supply weapons” or “supply military materiel to Russian-controlled Eastern Ukraine” – image 1).

A quick check confirms that these posts are indeed promoted content (i.e. paid) and targeted at Belgium (image 2). This by itself would be highly suspicious for an independent, nonpartisan civic group with no stated funding.

But a further check reveals the following:

  1. The Facebook page, website & Twitter profile were all created in mid-August 2018, with the Facebook page’s name becoming “European Union Anti Corruption” only on October 22, 2018, with the original name being “European Corruption Expose” (image 3).
  2. The name of the group closely resembles an actual EU programme, the European Union Anti-Corruption Initiative (https://euaci.eu/).
  3. The logo of the group is made to resemble a law enforcement agency or EU body, but uses the “Hawk of Quraish” taken directly from the coat of arms of Syria, a Kremlin ally (image 4). Also, the Latin motto is grammatically incorrect, likely a botched Google Translate attempt - instead of “Lex Una Persona Non Est Super” it should read “Lex Personae Non Est Superior” or “Lex Personae Non Superior Est”.
  4. The Facebook page has over 23.000 followers while only existing for 2 months. Despite this amazingly high amount of followers, it has a total of 3 (three) community engagements, last two of which are shares, and the first, dated October 19, is a warning saying “Just letting everyone know that European Corruption Expose is Russian propaganda” (image 5). That, coupled with the fact that there are zero common users between these followers and the actual Brussels EU bubble community (can be verified when viewing the page from any Brussels-based account), clearly suggests the follower base is fake (purchased).
  5. The Twitter profile also has a suspiciously high amount of followers (nearly 5000), having been created 2-3 months ago, with 4400 of these reportedly following the account already on October 1st (image 6). Furthermore, an account audit shows that at least around half of these followers are fake (image 6 - comparison with real accounts). As Twitter Audit reveals completely fake accounts or bots, it usually doesn’t recognise so-called cyborg (bot with human interaction) or troll accounts, so the percentage of purchased followers is likely much higher.
  6. Furthermore, a look through their Twitter profile shows an interesting pattern: a total of only 164 tweets, out of which in August, starting right from the moment Lyudmyla Kozlovska was expelled, there were 6 tweets or retweets of content favourable to Kozlovska & ODF. Then, from September onward, there were 17 tweets & retweets (mostly original tweets) attacking Kozlovska & ODF, even using Kazakh fakes like the infamous “sex tape”. This is a typical pattern for fake accounts: pretending at first to support a case or issue to get followers from the community and build credibility, and then switching sides and reaching a target audience that would have otherwise never followed the account.
  7. The website domain, www.euanticorruption.com, was registered on August 16, 2018, through a registrar in Malaysia (image 3). The website itself is a basic WordPress blog, with no “About” page, no address, contact details or any information related to the organisation, its funding or who is behind it (image 7). Also, most posts on the page are anonymous.
  8. The group also seems to have links (or at least tries to have) to another supposedly pro-European “media outlet” known for smearing ODF, “EU Today”, published by Gary Cartwright, a former UKIP employee, who even UKIP described as an “extremist”, as he himself admits (image 8).
  9. An analysis of the posts published on the Facebook page clearly shows a vast disproportionality of interactions between the posts related to ODF and other content, with content related to ODF having hundreds of interactions (likes, shares, comments) and other content having a few, maximum couple dozen. The two most likely explanations are that either a) content attacking ODF is artificially promoted or b) a lot of the interactions come from fake/bot accounts (image 9).

The above facts lead to the obvious conclusion that the whole operation is fake, likely what is called a “black PR” (or “flush tank”) - a website or media outlet offering a paid service of defamation of a target person or organisation. Just in Ukraine there have been two exposed “flush tanks” with similar names: “AntiKor” and “StopKor” (short for “Anti Corruption” and “Stop Corruption” respectively).

We therefore strongly warn against following, sharing or interacting with any Facebook page, Twitter profile or website associated with this group or person. All evidence points to it being a propaganda/disinformation tool acting in the interest of the Kremlin and its allies.

We also urge everyone to report the Fb page (three dots next to “Share” -> Report -> It’s a scam -> This page is fake) and Twitter profile (three dots next to “Follow” -> Report @eu_anti_corrupt -> It’s suspicious or spam, and then, if you like, second time choosing “Their tweets are abusive or harmful” -> Engaging in targeted harassment -> Someone else, and tick tweets harassing ODF).