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Zuckerberg should have put them on notice: Ukrainian politicians who juggle with words on Facebook

26.01.2021, 18:31

After having suspended Donald Trump on several social networks, the cleansing process got to Ukraine. Facebook announced that dozens of accounts would be blocked, since they allegedly coordinated some "efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic purpose." Mark Zuckerberg's team attributed this network to Petro Poroshenko's party.

But based on the principle of purity of social networks bannying any kind of manipulation, a whole number of top politicians in Ukraine might be suspended. The Institute of Mass Information passed through the posts of 10 politicians * who wrote on Facebook during the first half of January 2021. The result is stunning: nine of them were manipulations.

Volodymyr Zelensky

On the morning of January 1, Volodymyr Zelensky announced the return of Ukrainians from Syria. The head of state described the great efforts made by the government. Herein, Zelensky played  around with emotions. For instance, he said: "Let the old political virus of dividing people into those who are "the ours” and those who need to be subjugated or who could be ignored, disappear in new year along with the coronavirus..Such rhetoric is employed in Ukraine by pro-Russian forces, who are not happy with being constantly said they collaborated with the enemy. And last year, Zelensky himself showed that he clearly divided people into "ours" and "another’s". This was especially evident in the attitude to the persons tried by criminal court. The former Yanukovych-era Interior Ministry official was defended by almost the entire President's Office, along with the Prosecutor General's Office.

In a letter dated of January 6, Zelensky manipulated once more with emotions, to calm everybody down. " The government has a clear vaccination plan ," the president wrote on his Facebook page. Formally, the plan does exist. On paper. But it can already be seen that clearly defined terms of vaccination of Ukrainians are not respected. Thus, the first stage of vaccination should begin in January 2021. However, it is still unknown which vaccine and when the government can really purchase.

Lately, the Minister of Health announced the vaccination to be started in February. Earlier, in July 2020, Zelensky said he supervised that Ukraine became " among the first countries to be able to acquire a coronavirus vaccine." We could not got among the first ones. Nor did we invent our domestic vaccine, the production of which Zelensky announced in October 2020.

With all these manipulative statements, the president is trying to hide the government's vaccination fiasco.

Denys Shmyhal

The Prime Minister, like the President, also tried to manipulatively take the credit for success in his post messages.

On January 9, Denis Shmyhal wrote on Facebook: "The Customs collected 23.5% more than planned in December, and Tax agency did 28.8%. These figures are the best evidence that our government is dismantling schemes, and formulae, smuggling ". If in December the customs demonstrated overachievement of target, in general in 2020 the poor performance of custom revenus is 8.8%.

In the same post, the prime minister boasted of success at the job marketplace: " Thanks to government business support programs, almost 550,000 jobs have been saved - thanks to government support, more than 600,000 Ukrainians have been employed in 2020. " However, official statistics are implacable. According to the State Statistics Committee, during the year (until September) the number of unemployed persons increased from 1 million 548.9 thousand people to 1 million 643.4 thousand, and, accordingly, the unemployment rate rose from 8.5% to 9.3%. The highest unemployment rate as of September was recorded in Luhansk (16.1%) and Donetsk (15.2%) regions.

On January 11, Shmygal painted a vivid picture on Facebook about the development of two approaches that would significantly reduce gas tariffs for the population.

The first approach was: the formation of gas tariffs according to the formula "the price of European hubs minus the gas transportation to Ukraine", and before that temporarily limit the margin for gas suppliers. In fact, it will not significantly help reduce the price of gas, which is determined by a specific formula. The formula shows that the cost of transportation in the final cost of natural gas is less than 10%. Nor it would help to limit the margin for gas suppliers, because the corresponding margin is 2.5%.

In fact, this manipulation was refuted by Shmygal himself in the following post of January 13. In it, the prime minister announced what decisions the government had made. One of them was a fixed gas price for all gas suppliers : 6.99. This is the lowest price among announced by 55 companies for January. At the same time, the head of government assured that " state regulation of gas prices did not mean that the government refused to develop the gas market ." However, the "leveling" of prices for all suppliers was precisely contrary to market development, because it puts companies in unequal conditions of competition.

Also on January 13, Shmygal posted a message about the so-called lockdown. "Starting the intensified lockdown since January 8 is the most optimal date, because this is the period when one could prevent the spread of the virus after the holidays and break the chain of disease." This is a manipulation on the verge of inaccurate information. Any restrictions in the pandemic are introduced to reduce the mobility of people and social contacts. The New Year and Christmas holidays have a peak of social contacts, and thus the risk of infection increases significantly. And to prevent the spread of the virus, it was necessary to limit these peak contacts. Instead of acting according to the scheme: first, everyone comes into contact with each other and gets infected, and then we treat patients and break the chain of disease. Any doctor will say: prevention is better than cure.

The case of Ireland demonstrates why the government's post-holiday lockdown tactics are wrong. There, at Christmas, the government decided to ease quarantine restrictions. As a result they had mass infections. For a few days, Ireland ranked first in the world in the rate of coronavirus spread.

David Arahamia

The head of the "Servant of the People" faction, David Arahamiya, also manipulated the tariff issue. On January 11, he wrote about the preparation of an anti-crisis plan. " Now we have to find out what happened, how justified the increase is and how to protect people in this context," - as  the "Servants"’ boss said.

It is unlikely that a MP at the level of the head of the "majority" faction is unaware of the reasons for the increase of tariffs, in particular, pegging the gas prices to the market ones. And that fluctuations in tariffs for natural gas do not occur by someone's decision, but in accordance with market of European prices. So, there are only two ways to "protect" people in case of a price increase: either to cover the difference between the market price and the value for consumers at the expense of others (of Ukrainians through the state budget), or to develop the economy and as a result to raising the salaries.

Instead, politicians have traditionally used the manipulative words, such as "protecting people", to hide the inability to resolve the issue in another way, than picking pockets of all Ukrainians which is the state budget.

Iryna Vereshchuk

"We have to take a pro-Ukrainian position on the issue of tariffs , " Iryna Vereshchuk, a MP from “Servant of the People”, wrote on January 12. And this is outright manipulation. Because there is no pro-Ukrainian position on the issue of market price setting. Moreover, the hidden decision to manually regulate tariffs is anti-Ukrainian in the sense that it leads to a deterioration of relations with the IMF. Because market price setting of tariffs is one of the main agreements with an international financial institution.

In the analysis of Vereshchuk's Facebook page, the IMI experts drew attention to another fact. During the first half of January, the MP published 37 posts, 21 of which contained announcements or excerpts from her broadcasts on TV channels that have pro-Russian owners (Newsone, 112, ZIK, NASH, Kyiv Live), three more posts with excerpts from Vereshchuk's air on "Znay  24 ", which is affiliated with the garbage site znaj.ua (according to IMI research, only 14% of the news items on this resource deal with journalism, these are reposts from other media). In this way, the politician turns her Facebook audience into a group loyal to these mass media. This is a manipulation in the style of "Trust me, you can trust the TV channels I mention on social networks." And this poses a threat to Facebook users, because it reduces their level of critical attitude to TV channels that are used to promote Russian narratives.

Evheniya Kravchuk

One of the speakers of the ruling party manipulates in her Facebook posts, praising the success of the government.

Thus, on January 6, she presented the development of the bill №4561 to preserve the traditional nature of the environment and counteract chaotic construction as an achievement. "Finally, the historic sites in Ukrainian cities will cease to be" victims "of modern shopping malls and apartment blocks," Kravchuk wrote. However, the bill has only been developed, it has not yet been approved by the Verkhovna Rada. And this is not sure that they will pass it. So, it is not sure that "finally" it will ever happen, as MP said. The bill itself has just appeared. According to the database of bills, it was registered in parliament only on December 30, 2020. To mention him in the list with the hashtag "cultural victories of 2020" is at least strange.  

In a post dated of January 11, Kravchuk manipulatively attributed a success to Zelensky, even if it didn’t entirely belong to the president. "The construction of the Terebovlia bypass was started in September 2020 by Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Ternopil, " the MP said. In fact, the president visited Ternopil region on September 19, and the tender for the development of project documentation for the construction of the mentioned bypass of Terebovlia was announced a month earlier - on August 20. And at the time of Zelensky's visit, the auction had already passed - on September 14.

And something more. On the map of the "Great Construction" , to which Kravchuk attributes this project, the construction of the bypass of Terebovlia is inexistent.

 

Petro Poroshenko

January 4th to Facebook Poroshenko wrote about an alliance Zelensky-Medvedchuk: I am convinced in order to oppose coalition Zelensky-Medvedchuk , the democratic forces should unite and thwart revanchist intents. By his inaction, Zelensky pushes Medvedchuk to PM position, and 100%, we will definitely not allow that.

In reality, the existence of such a coalition looks very uncertain. Moreover, Medvedchuk's mass media compete in systemic unsubstantiated and manipulative criticism of the incumbent president, which fits into the canvas of Russian propaganda. However, Poroshenko's news channels also spend a lot of time discussing the failures of Volodymyr Zelensky. 

It is dubitous that Zelensky pushed Medvedchuk to the PM position. The president has difficulties to collect votes in parliament for any appointment. And for Medvedchuk-Prime Minister there are no votes in the Verkhovna Rada either with or without "European Solidarity". Thus, Poroshenko manipulatively discredits his successor with such a post.

On January 11, Poroshenko manipulated with the coronavirus issues. " It is necessary to strictly regulate the prices of tests and vaccines against coronavirus, " he wrote on Facebook. It should be reminded here that the state generally does tests for free, there the problem is completely different - in the quantitative and temporal ability of testing by public institutions. And strict regulation of prices in the market often leads to the opposite effect: the disappearance of goods or services.

On January 14, the ex-president posted two manipulative posts at once.

The first concerned the news from the European Court of Human Rights.

"Actually, this (the role of the Russian armed forces in the invasion of Crimea) is officially established by the European Court of Human Rights, as well as y Russia has been recognized as the occupant of Crimea, " Poroshenko wrote. In fact, the ECHR did not define the role of the Russian army and did not recognize Russia as the occupant of Crimea. The court stated admissible the case "against Ukraine" (regarding Crimea) about human rights violations during the period from February 27, 2014 th and proceeded to the merits. This is really important that the ECHR agreed that Russia was exercising an "effective control" over the peninsula since February 27 . As for the occupation, the relevant explanation was made by the Ministry of the Temporarily Occupied Territories: "The fact of occupation does not require recognition in court, as the occupying state directly and openly manages the occupied territories. An effective control one state has over part of the territory of another is determined by international courts according to various criteria. "

Although in the context of the ECHR's decision, Poroshenko manipulated the recent recognition of Russia as the occupying state, it should not be forgotten that Russia was named the occupier in 2016 in a UN resolution on Crimea.

Another manipulation concerned the mayoral election in Brovary, near Kyiv. " Oleg Ivanenko (from "European Solidarity") was the only alternative to the current government in the city ," - as Poroshenko wrote. In fact, nine people took part in the City Council elections, so the alternative in the form of Poroshenko's political ally was not the only one. As not the only alternative was the party of the ex-president "to the power of green amateurs ". This is how Poroshenko presented "European Solidarity" in the same post. As of January 1, 2020, 349 parties were officially registered in Ukraine . 

Yulia Timoshenko

As to Yulia Tymoshenko, the IMI experts found only one her post with manipulations . But in the post consisted of a whole set of manipulations and fakes.

The authorities have decided to further increase tariffs ," the opposition politician wrote about gas prices for the population. In fact, these prices are not set by the government, but automatically fluctuate depending on market prices. We have already mentioned above that the price of natural gas was regulated by a clear formula based on the market price of European hubs. From the same link you can see that over the past six months, the price of gas in Europe has risen many times. So, another statement by Tymoshenko from her post is untrue: " all our neighboring countries, realizing how much the pandemic has hit the welfare of citizens, have reduced the price of energy ."

Then, the Batkivshchyna leader wrote about 225 billion hryvnias, which were "illegally taken out of Naftogaz to be transferred outside Ukraine. This is the money that was illegally taken out of everyone's pocket!" The company's audit did reveal violations in the work at the amount of 226 billion hryvnias. However, the budget of Ukraine (read: everyone's pockets) did not receive a smaller amount of this amount : 75 billion hryvnias. At the same time, it should be taken into account that the debts of consumers, utilities and suppliers to Naftogaz itself reach UAH 100 billion, and the debts of the population for housing and communal services as of the end of November 2020 reached UAH 66 billion. Naftogaz itself again became the largest taxpayer last year : it paid UAH 141.5 billion,or 13% of total state budget revenues.

And that's not all. In the same letter, Tymoshenko attributed to herself somde false achievements as prime minister. " Ten years ago, my government led the country through the flu epidemic and the global financial crisis, without raising tariffs and driving the country into unbearable debts… did not listen to the" advice "of external lobbyists, " - the opposition leader said. However, this is not true. The years 2008-2009 of Tymoshenko's prime-ministrial activity are synonymic not only with the global economic crisis, but also withy Ukraine's record borrowings. In a number of Tymoshenko borrowed from the IMF, World Bank and other creditors about $ 26 billion.

Well, speaking about efforts not to raise tariffs and advice from Western lobbyists. The letter of intent to the IMF dated July 23, 2009 referred to the increase in gas prices for the population within the framework of the memorandum. The document has the signature, this one of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Yuriy Boyko

We found three posts with manipulations at once on the Facebook page of an official from the OPFL.

On January 4, the opposition wrote that " 2020 was a year of complete frustration in the Ze-government ." This is a manipulative exaggeration. We can talk about a certain disappointment in Zelensky, but not about complete one.

Only in our country, the government did not help, it deceived, mocked and engaged in outright sabotage, " – Boyko went on. In fact, there are many examples of other countries where the government has deceived its people. And in Ukraine, not only government officials are involved in wrecking activity.

"The government has taken a multitude of anti-people decisions, " Boyko slammed the government again , in particular mentioning the "empty-headed lockdown." According to the "anti-people" and "empty-headed", the opposition traditionally disguises manipulation, which is aimed at the emotional perception of criticism.

"Unrest has begun in the provinces due to another predatory increase in tariffs. The cynical policy of the authorities is forcing people to block the roads," Boyko's allegations also reveal some manipulations. We see emotional exaggeration once more. In addition, his statement about "unrest in the provinces" is nothing more than an attempt to pass off his party's protests as spontaneous uprisings.

"Our local party members are already initiating meetings of local councils to declare the inadmissibility of rising prices for gas, electricity and other utility tariffs for the population," Boyko said in the same post. This is a common political manipulation. We have already said that the price of gas in Ukraine was related to European market prices. Statements by local councils in Ukraine are unlikely to affect the cost of fuel at the international markets.

On January 13, Boyko wrote again about tariffs: "Tariffs must be reduced IMMEDIATELY … The energy crisis, due to which the new year for Ukrainians began with rising utility tariffs, was created by completely artificial incompetence of previous governments and inaction by current ones." Once more it should be said, the gas prices for the population rose naturally after market prices.

However, in this post about manipulated tariffs, Boyko goes on: "to stop all games with Russian gas, which Ukraine for some reason buys with an upcharge from intermediaries instead of buying it directly for $ 100 cheaper." In this way, the opposition manipulatively promotes the Russian narrative of "direct negotiations." Another call ("it is crucial that energy prices are tightly controlled by the state ") seeks to violate Ukraine's agreements with the IMF, which could lead to terminastion of cooperation and, as a result, to financial problems, up to problems with payment of pensions and salaries.

Vadym Rabinovych

"In the United States, the media loyal to the Democrats call the protesters the word mob which means mob, gang, coterie," - Vadym Rabinovich said in a post dated of January 7. In fact, a mob is nothing but a crowd. For example, flash mob translates as instant crowd. In May 2020, Rabinovych's party organized its own flash mob to mark the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. It is unlikely that the OPFL called for "gangs" and "coterie" to gather. So in his Facebook post, he posted manipulative text against the background of protests in the United States.

On January 11, Rabinovych manipulated with the tariffs theme. "The authorities have decided to finish off Ukrainians with making them to pay the sums for communal services! " - the representative of OPFL wrote. We emphasize again and again: the price of gas is set by a formula that depends on market prices.

" Stupid fucks multiplied by hundred. What else can you say about a person who believes that people should die, even if the Russian vaccine is very effective, " Rabinovich said, referring to a reference to the site "Strana" about Ukraine's refusal to use the "Russian vaccine." In such a way, Rabinovych manipulated and promoted the Russian narrative about the vaccine.

And more. A person who refuses the "Russian vaccine" can be called "Putin". Named after the Russian president. Because Vladimir Putin himself said that the "Russian vaccine" was effective, mass vaccination of Russians was necessarily, but he was not vaccinated, because it would not be not designed for his age.

On January 12, Rabinovych came back to the tariffs topic. He called for "denying the IMF their wishes in terms of market prices for gas for the population ," "returning to the issue of a 25 percent discount on gas, which we agreed with Russia ," " nationalizing regional energy and regional gas ." These theses repeated Russian narratives and did not lead to an improvement in the general situation in Ukraine, but to a cardinal deterioration, as we have already explained above. In the same post, the opposition member used another manipulation: "The power of the Ze has pushed the country over the edge! People have nothing to eat ." This is an outright lie. Ukrainians had nothing to eat during the artificial Holodomor, which was staged by the Soviet Union the last century.

Also it cannot but attract attention : the large number of reposts in Rabinovych's Facebook feed from pro-Russian mass media "Strana" and "Klimenko Time".

Conclusions

Of the 10 politicians whose Facebook posts were checked by IMI experts, only Yaroslav Zheleznyak, a representative of the Holos party, had no manipulative texts. Other politicians allowed themselves to spread both manipulations and fake news.

The main topic of the first half of January was the topics of tariffs and vaccines. Also, depending on the political side, the government - the opposition, the politicians exaggerated their achievements, or generally criticized opponents far and wide. At the same time, Facebook posts in which experts from the Institute of Mass Information found fake news and manipulations were not marked by the administration of the social network. So other users could take the false information for truthful.

* Facebook feeds of the following politicians were analyzed: Volodymyr Zelensky, Denys Shmyhal, David Arakhamiya, Yevhenia Kravchuk, Iryna Vereshchuk, Petro Poroshenko, Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Boyko, Vadym Rabinovych, Yaroslav Zheleznyak. The analysis covered Facebook posts for the period from 1 to 14 January inclusive.

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