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Disclosure On Ukrainian Telegram, there are networks of "draft notice" channels that distribute probably unverified information

Oleksii Pivtorak, Olha Bilousenko

There are about 80 telegram communities in the Ukrainian telegram segment, whose users report the movement of military personnel allegedly distributing draft notices in Ukrainian cities. In these channels, messages can be added by everyone who sees the military with draft notices on the streets with the help of special bots. However, the administrators of telegram communities do not check whether each message about the likely distribution of draft notices on a street is true.

According to the Telemetrio platform, which provides analytics on the work of telegram communities, at the end of January 2023, about 80 channels and groups were operating in the Ukrainian segment of this messenger, having the words “draft notice” or “mobilization” or their equivalents in Russian. The audience of these communities ranges from 120 to 115 thousand people. The oldest of the currently active community with the name “Where do they distribute draft notices? Dnipro” appeared on March 12, 2022. Now this channel has 1.1 thousand subscribers. The total audience of these communities in the telegram is about 1.2 million messenger users.

As Detector Media analysts found out, Ukrainian telegram channels and groups that talk about draft notices cover an audience of 21 regions and Kyiv city. As a rule, most telegram communities operate in regions where the largest cities of Ukraine are the administrative centers. Nine are oriented to Kyiv and the region, 7 - to Kharkiv region and 7 - to Odesa region, 6 - to Lviv region.

In the Ukrainian segment, channels that operate on the territory of Donbas, Luhansk, Kherson and Crimea could not be found yet.

There are two types of communities where draft notice handouts are reported. The first includes those where one can exchange messages without the help of administrators or telegram bots. The second, respectively, include those where they publish only messages that were written to the bots, or subscribers cannot be told anything at all and the authors of the channel create the content themselves, but do not indicate the sources of information in the messages.

As an example of telegram channels of the first group, we can name the “Mobilization Draft Notice Ukraine News” channel, which has 17.6 thousand subscribers. Its participants write in the chat questions of varying complexity regarding how mobilization is taking place in Ukraine. For example, if a person who is the stepfather of three children will be allowed to go abroad. Most of the telegram communities where they communicate and warn about the issuance of draft notices belong to the second category. Either one can’t write messages there at all, or one needs to write them through a bot that publishes these messages. Judging by the names of the bots and the design of the telegram channels, there are at least three networks in the Ukrainian telegram that moderate the so-called draft notice communities. These networks control about 30 telegram communities.

For example, the @moderatorukr_bot network operates in the telegram, which is run through a bot with the nickname @moderatorukr_bot. It covers at least 22 channels covering 21 regions and Kyiv city. The telegram channels of the network are easily recognizable by their yellow logos with the word “draft notice” in black in the middle. These channels appeared in October-November 2022. One can publish messages only through the bot @moderatorukr_bot. First, in the bot, you need to select the area in which you have information about the distribution of draft notices, and then write a message. However, the bot does not delay the publication of any messages too much. And this can be abused to spread false or unverified information. For example, living in one end of Ukraine, one can report the distribution of draft notices in another part of the country. And this information will be published without verification. In the first months after the creation of telegrams, the channels of this network were probably seen as a source of profit. For example, from October to November, in the description of the “Zhytomyr Draft notices” channel, it was possible to contact the user @marcuss92 with promotional offers.

Also, in the Telegram there are networks of such communities as “Solidary friend” and “gde” (Where).

Thanks to the archive of these telegram channels, Telemetrio managed to find the contacts of the administrator of Solidary Friend Oleksandr. He was the only one of the moderators of telegram channels with draft notice information who answered the question of how he fights disinformation on the channels. “Today, our bot has a ban system, if a person spreads false information several times, he or she loses the opportunity to use the bot. We also have chats for each channel, where people actively help us in content moderation”, Oleksandr explained in a comment to Detector Media. He added that users of the telegram channel who communicate in the chat, the link to which is contained in the description of the telegram channels of this network, help to verify the veracity of the information. That is, the verification method is again unreliable, because messages are first published, and only then checked.

The danger of such networks of telegram channels is that they are run by anonymous people. Therefore, it is impossible to find out the purpose of creating specific networks of so-called draft notices channels, just as it is impossible to verify the information they publish. It should be understood that the distribution of draft notices to men of military age in the conditions of mobilization is legal, however, representatives of the Territorial recruitment centers do not say where and when they will distribute draft notices to men. Also, employees of the territorial recruitment centers took part in the spread of anxious moods in society. For example, when draft notices were handed over to defendants in criminal cases of rape; issued them to people who had sex in a public place or to visitors of mass events or just to men on the streets. That is, such actions probably provoked the emergence of such telegram communities.

The public importance of the topic and the great interest of people in it, as evidenced by the same search queries in Google, the authors of anonymous sites can use to make money and promote messages that are beneficial to them. In addition, information about the distribution of draft notices in different cities of Ukraine only nourish the level of tension in society. In conditions of war, when mobilization is underway, the dissemination of such messages can provoke panic and undermine confidence in the army command and government. Also, messages in such channels can be misleading, because due to the fact that the networks themselves are anonymous, it is impossible not only to verify the accuracy of the information referred to in the messages, but also to find out the algorithms by which the authors of such channels try to check the facts, or attempt to do so.

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