On July 9, Borba portal published the news about the seizure of over 100 kilograms of cocaine from a ship in the Chilean town of Vina del Mar, where were five seafarers of Montenegrin origin on board.

A number of Serbian and Montenegrin portals, such as IN4S, RTS, B92, Blic, FOS Media, Mondo, Portal Analitika have, without prior fact-checking, transmitted the news that 100 kilograms of cocaine were seized from the ship in Chilean town Vina del Mar and that there were five seafarers of Montenegrin origin who were connected with this event. It was stated that they were under investigation and detained in house arrest.

Each portal that transmitted disputable article associated it with a recent seizure of 18 tons of cocaine in Philadelphia, when members of a crew from Montenegro were arrested. One of them, portal Alo went further stating that evidence revealing Montenegrin plans for conquering the USA was found. Following that allegation, we dare say that stupidity and lie do not know the boundaries and that professionalism has stepped back before dilettantism.

On the other hand, the fact is that neither verified international nor Chilean media outlet has published the news on the mentioned event. The only information about the cocaine seizure in Vina del Mar was published on portal Soychile on March 27, 2019. It was stated that four persons (three men and a woman) were detained because they possessed 195 doses of cocaine paste. The value of seized drugs is more than 2 million dollars.

The substantial question is why the news published on portal Borba was not published by any Montenegrin national media since they previously transmitted the information about the arrests of part of the crew of Montenegrin origin during the seizure in Philadelphia? The logic of professional responsibility leads us to the conclusion that the described event never happened!

It is evident that the unreasonable linking of various events and the publication of unfounded content through the media represent increasingly frequent methods, serving to encourage political instability. The tendentious representation of the Montenegrin people in a negative context and the support of already existing inter-ethnic tensions are the consequences, among other things, of such a media framework.

MP’s supporting fake news

The information of Borba portal was even more promoted by Nebojsa Medojevic, MP of Democratic Front, who posted a comment on Twitter – Djukanovic company keeps going. There is no resting as the restructuring takes place. Led by a maxim, the goal justifies the means, the political blocks use in various manners promotion of disinformation, whereas they become a dangerous weapon.

Due to aggravating tensions on relation Podgorica-Belgrade caused by the Proposal of the Law on Freedom of Religion, specific portals seem to strive bolstering them, thus, creating an illusion for their readers.

The Army of Montenegro has already hosted exercise Adrion Livex in 2011, but this year as a a NATO member state

Specific media outlets tendentiously gave a sensational note to the participation of the Army of Montenegro in Immediate Response 2019 (IR19) exercises, held in the period from May 10th till June 7th this year on the territory of Croatia. Hence, NATO exercises that have nothing to do with current affairs were used to add fuel to the fire.

Montenegro spat on Serbia and the Serbs on Kosovo! What its soldiers did there has no trace of cojstvo (the act of defending somebody from yourself, a term coined by Marko Miljanov to characterize Montenegrin people), as written by portal Espreso. On the following day, the portal IN4S published the same news with partly edited text and the altered headline: Scandal: Montenegrin soldiers wear flags of the so-called Kosovo and Albania on their uniforms, and during the following days portals Vidovdan and Nacionalist followed them with similar headlines.

It is evident that the author of the text deliberately missed the fact that there is a general practice for the NATO Member States to wear symbols of other countries participating in the international exercises. Therefore, there is nothing scandalous or sensationalistic in that information.

The second military exercise, Adrion Livex 19 took place from June 18th till June 28th in the Port of Bar. It was hosted by the Army of Montenegro with a view to enhance cooperation and strengthen interoperability among the naval forces of the Adrion initiative.

Thus, the portals IN4S and Barski portal portrayed the presence of the Member States’ ships as a pressure imposed on Serbian Orthodox Church and the petition of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral against Government’s Proposal to the Law on Freedom of Religion and Legal Position of Religious Communities. According to them, it is evincive that NATO ships remain in Montenegro specifically till Vidovdan, 28th of June (St. Vitus Day), which is the period until the citizens can sign the petition in churches across the country.

It was omitted that the exercise was preannounced on May 30th, i.e. 15 days before the gathering on Trojicindan in front of the church and launching the abovementioned initiative. Bombastic headlines: Aggression military ships in Bar till Vidovdan and Power demonstration: NATO ships in the Port of Bar till Vidovdan tendentiously promoted with accentuated intent to raise panic in public served as another mean of maintaining tensions between the two countries.

DFC investigated and found out that in the published photo from this year’s IR19 exercise was Croatian backpack, not Montenegrin, as it was tendentiously intended to seem and provoke intolerance of readers. The analysis of the camouflage uniform design confirmed that it was infallibly the backpack of the Croatian Army, since the detail dominating the uniform represents actually the relief of the Republic of Croatia.

Another confirmation is an Instagram account of one of the members of the Croatian Army, who published a photo of the backpack, which is identical to the one in the disputable photo.

It is clear that the intensifying of relations between Montenegro and Serbia is further stimulated by such and similar announcements, focusing on current Montenegrin issues: judgment of two Russians in court proceeding of coup attempt, sending of the officers of the Army of Montenegro to celebrate anniversary of Storm Operation, and presenting the Proposal to the Law on Freedom of Religion as an attempt to take the property of Serbian Orthodox Church.

Over the last years, and particularly over the last months, we witnessed very intensive negative campaigns on Serbian media portals aimed at deteriorating the image of Montenegro as a preferable tourist destination

The Serbian and pro-Serbian media do not miss an opportunity to point out at all the tourist offer shortcomings on the Montenegrin coast. By spreading panic and giving warning alerts, they tend to present bad situation in the country, with a view to destabilizing the domestic economy by provoking the collapse of tourism.

Dreadful sight in Montenegro: Serbs will never visit you again! Tourists cancel packages on a large scale! Discharge of raw sewage seen at the most beautiful beach in Montenegro! Dangerous shark seen in the Adriatic Sea! Sneaks scared bathers at Buljarica and Mogren beach in Budva!

We singled out only some of the headlines which media such as Espreso, Alo, Telegraf, Srbija Danas, Informer portals, use to spread negative campaign. The headlines are followed by a set of appalling photos of waste in Sutomore, Budva and alike, intending to sabotage tourist season.

However, according to Maja Vukicevic, PR manager of the Montenegro Stars Hotel Group, most of the published photos and texts have been fabricated and re- cycled over the years.

Regardless such a negative campaign, the number of Serbian tourists has not decreased compared to previous years, said Aleksandra Maksimovic, PR of the National Tourism Organization. Judging from the tourism turnover gene- rated from the Serbian market, it is evident that the negative media campaigns do not influence significantly the tourist revenues, she concluded.

DJORDJE STOJOVIC, a 13-year-old boy from the Montenegrin village Martinici (Danilovgrad Municipality) has shown tremendous humanity and courage, by saving his friend from drowning in the river Zeta which flows through Danilovgrad, Montenegro. All regional media reported on this heroic deed. And this truly is an act worthy of respect and attention of the media.

However, on September 18, 2019, the Serbian portal Espreso, manipulating this information on purpose, published a text under the title: ĐORĐE (13) IS A HERO OF SERBIA.

Even though Djordje is wearing the Montenegrin folk costume on the photo, the headline suggests its Serbian ethnicity.

By alluding already in the title to the nationality of the young hero, the Espreso portal, seeks to draw the attention of the readers of the Serbian nationality in a cheap manner, thereby provoking their empathy and national pride.

On the other hand, it is disputable whether the Espreso portal with this tendentious title wants to potentially provoke a revolt of the Montenegrin readers familiar with the facts, because it is clear from the further text that it is about a boy from the village Martinici located in Montenegro.

Is the goal of sharing this false information obtaining the largest possible number of views and/or fueling already increased tensions in the Serbian and Montenegrin public? Whatever the case, it is dangerous, and it is certainly disgraceful that this stupendous act of Djordje Stojovic, worthy of admiration, is abused for daily political purposes.

The key to promoting and advertising content on the Internet is the creation of the Internet “traffic”. The media outlets, in fighting for survival and profit on the online market, often use clickbait as a tool – sensationalist headlines, the content of which mostly does not correspond to the following text. The clickbait uses natural human curiosity and is created to gain the financial interest, i.e. increased readership. To put it simply, a clickbait offers more than it can give.

Headlines, such as: “You won’t believe it”, “You have to check this out”, “What happened will shock you” are the most common examples of “click baits”, that allegedly offer exclusive content to readers.

Importance of the headlines has become more significant than ever, and its significance was best described by David Ogilvy, who said that five times more people read only the headlines rather than the text itself. “Once you write a good headline, 80 per cent of your dollar has already been spent”, said Ogilvy, who is, according to Time Magazine, the most wanted wizard of the advertising industry.

The clickbait phenomenon is well familiar in the regional media world – we identified and analyzed 126 clickbait headlines in the period from March 15th till May 25th. The portals registered on the territory of Serbia are the loudest ones in promoting such articles.

When it comes to the columns where such content has been published, most commonly those are politics (38), news (31), region (15), and Kosovo (12), which represent 76% of the analysed clickbait headlines.

When it comes to the type of article, the most dominant are reports (70) and statements (42), which together account for 80% of the total analysed clickbait headlines.

The analysed texts mostly concerned the aspects of security (44) and values (44), while the least attention was given to the economy (9).

When it comes to key narratives, we identified 11, and those are: Montenegro has lost its sovereignty by joining NATO (5), Montenegro is a captured state (9), East vs. West (42), Montenegro is a crime state (5), NATO is an aggressive alliance (5), the Western Balkans is an unstable region (19), depleted uranium is harmful (4), the Western Balkans is under the control of the West (19), Russia is the biggest friend of Serbia (7), Serbs in Montenegro are endangered (2) and creating Greater Albania (9).

When it comes to the topics, we identified 6 key topics: NATO (35), Belgrade – Pristina dialogue (21), regional cooperation and relations (16), the Montenegrin society (21), international relations (18) and the EU (4).

Within the most frequent topic – NATO – there are 8 narratives with the intent of spreading, and those are: Montenegro has lost its sovereignty by joining NATO (3), Montenegro is a captured state (1), East vs. West (12), NATO is an aggressive Alliance (4), the Western Balkans is an unstable region (3), depleted uranium is harmful (4), the Western Balkans is under the control of the West (5) and Russia is the biggest friend of Serbia (3).

Within the topic Belgrade – Pristina dialogue there are 4 narratives with the intent of spreading, such as: the region is under the control of the West (5), East vs. West (2), the Western Balkans is an unstable region (12) and creating Greater Albania (2).

Within the topic regional cooperation and relations, there are five narratives with the intent of spreading: East vs. West (5), the Western Balkans is an unstable region (2), the Western Balkans is under the control of the West (2), Serbs in Montenegro are endangered (1) and creating Greater Albania (6).

Within the topic Montenegrin society there are 7 narratives with the intent of spreading, and those are: Montenegro is a captured state (8), the Western Balkans is under the control of the West (2), creating Greater Albania (1), Montenegro has lost its sovereignty by joining NATO (2), East vs. West (3), Montenegro is a crime state (4) and Serbs in Montenegro are endangered (1).

Within the topic of the international relations, there are 2 narratives with the intent of spreading, and those are: East vs. West (15) and Russia is the biggest friend of Serbia (3).

Within the topic other there are 4 narratives with the intent of spreading, and those are: East vs. West (5), the Western Balkans is an unstable region (2), the Western Balkans is under the control of the West (3) and NATO is an aggressive Alliance (1).

Keywords

Conclusions:

  • Within the period from March 15th till May 25th we identified and analysed 126 clickbait articles.
  • The most dominant type of article was a report.
  • The analysed texts concerned both security and values aspects.
  • Within the articles that were the subject matter of the analysis, we identified 6 key topics and 11 narratives.
  • When it comes to the topics, the most dominant ones were NATO and Belgrade – Pristina dialogue, while the most frequent narratives were East vs. West, the Western Balkans under the control of the West and the Western Balkans is an unstable region.
  • The most frequent words were: Kosovo, NATO and Montenegro.

Soon after the rise of the “popularity” sites, about which was written in the first text,  marketing companies and experts, in order to prevent to be defrauded and to pay fake influencers for marketing services, have developed their own tools for „quality“ and „authenticity“ check of followers and likes. So that today with a small amount of money and using websites such as fakelikes.info you may check “the quality” of Instagram and Facebook influencers, or the number of their real and fake profiles that followers and likes them, compared to the number of profiles artificially created and purchased through different online shops.

Currently, for us, it is maybe the case of a businessman, Dusko Knezevic – who opted for Instagram as a political communication channel with the public – the most interesting, particularly for two reasons.

First is the anomaly noticed in December 2018 when Dusko Knezevic on the photo posted on December 14 had 156 likes, while on the photo posted just a day after, i.e. on December 15, had 2,130 likes. For us who deal with social networks, it was clear that such leaps in the number of likes do not happen overnight, so that was the “alarm” for more detailed research.

The second reason is a typical example of bot profiles misuse in order to make a fake performance of support and popularity, when actually it was a common purchase of bot profiles and journalistic irresponsibility to report on unverified data, as was the case with portals slobodacg.me and in4s.net.

For the reason of the topic of this Magazine issue, we did the quality analysis of Instagram profile @dkatlas.

Let’s begin with the engagement rate (ER), which represents the total number of people commenting on or liking the posts compared to the total number of followers. In the case of this profile, it is about 4.97%. When bot profiles commenting on and liking the content are removed, it remains a so-called real engagement rate (real ER) which amounts to only 0.5% and represents comments and likes coming from real accounts, i.e. people.

When it comes to the followers, at the moment of the analysis, there were 60,772 followers; however, between 5,100 and 11,300 followers represent actually real accounts.

Likewise, out of the average 2,960 likes per post on the last 12 posts, a total of 2,667 (90%) likes constitute likes from bot profiles, i.e. fake likes.

Compared to the accounts with a similar number of followers, the @dkatlas account has 4.9 times lower engagement rate. As is stated on the site fakelikes.info, if an account has at least 2 times lower engagement rate than the accounts with the similar number of followers, then it is most probably about fake accounts and followers.

The post from May 24 – “DK AT THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT at the panel on Western Balkans” – is dominated by fake comments, as many as 93.1%, what may be seen from the mere overview of the “comments” section below the photo.

Almost the same situation may be seen on other posts of the analyzed profile, whether it is about likes or comments.

The analyzed profile of Dusko Knezevic is only one example of the possibility to buy followers, the number of likes, the number of views of video contents. All this has opened the additional space for misuse on social media.

Fake followers and likes have always been explicitly contrary to Instagram’s Regulations and Terms and Conditions. This platform has started its war against fake activity long ago, using tools which instantly identify accounts using popularity purchase sites, and removing comments and likes gotten in such way.

On April 3rd, the portal borba.me published an article under the headline “Agreement between Pristina and Podgorica: Thaçi’s Tribunal will try soldiers from Montenegro!”, related to the alleged agreement between the Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic and the Kosovo President, Hashim Thaçi, on the extradition of the Montenegrin members of the Yugoslav Army who defended people during the 1999 NATO intervention.

As this portal finds out from the unknown source, it is allegedly about a list of people which will be delivered to the Montenegrin authorities, eventually resulting in a series of arrests and extradition of the Montenegrin nationals.

The same news was reported on the same day and the days that followed by an already known group of media portals, such as alo.rs, espreso.rs, in4s.net, informer.rs, kurir.rs, novosti.rs, pravda.rs, skandalozno.rs, srbijadanas.rs, volimpodgoricu.me. As usual, this news was present only for several days, and in the end, it was neither confirmed nor verified, but completely forgotten.

Here is what it is about.

The EURLEX Kosovo Mission was launched as early as 2008 as the greatest civil mission under the Common Security and Defense Policy of the European Union, working within the framework of the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The Mission’s aim is to assist the Kosovo authorities to establish the sustainable and independent rule of law institution, particularly through two pillars: Monitoring Pillar and Operations Pillar. The Mission has been prolonged through several mandates, with the latest extended till June 14th, 2020.

In December 2018, EULEX has decided to handover the police, prosecutorial and judicial case files to the Kosovo authorities. It is about 495 organized crime police case files and 434 war crime police case files, missing persons’ case files, judicial case files handled only by EULEX, and more than 1.400 prosecutorial case files. Most of these case files are related to war crimes, organized crime, corruption and other serious crimes.  

In accordance with this, EULEX will no longer have its prosecutors and judges embedded in the Kosovo judicial system, but it will continue to cooperate with the Kosovo institutions, by monitoring the further developments with the selected case files.

In Montenegro however, nobody from the Ministry of Justice nor from any other institution has reacted or gave an official statement related to this news.

What may be concluded from the Montenegrin Law on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro, No. 04/2008 and 36/2013, particularly form Article 10 is that “the extradition of the accused or sentenced persons shall be requested and enforced in accordance with this Law unless otherwise has been provided for under an international agreement”. The same Law, in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 11, stipulates that “the conditions for the extradition upon the request of the Requesting State shall be: 1) that the person claimed is not a national of Montenegro; and 2) that the offence for which extradition is requested was not committed in the territory of Montenegro, against Montenegro or its national”.

Hence, in order for the extradition to be possible at all, there has to exist an international document, treaty or agreement. The example of such a document is the one between Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia – The Ratification Law on Treaty between Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia on the Amendments to the Extradition Treaty between Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia, published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro – International treaties, No. 4/2011 done on 1.4.2011., or the one between Montenegro and the Republic of Croatia – The Ratification Law on the Extradition Treaty between Montenegro and the Republic of Croatia, published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro – International treaties, No. 1/2011 done on 10.1.2011.; while such a document does not exist between Montenegro and the Republic of Kosovo.

However, if there would exist such a document, presuming done and based on similar documents signed with the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia, the extradition would not be possible by means of a tacit agreement between the two Presidents, as portal borba.me reported, but through specific manners of communication as follows: through the Ministries of Justice of the Contracting States, through diplomatic communication channel only if justified reasons exist and through INTERPOL in emergency cases.

Concerning Kosovo, the former Head of the EULEX Mission, Bernd Borchardt stated in his statement on the official website eulex-kosovo.eu that the majority of war crime suspects against Kosovo Albanians are Kosovar Serbs or Serbian nationals, but they are no longer in the territory of Kosovo. Hence, the judiciary of Kosovo (including EULEX) may conduct an investigation against alleged war crime perpetrators but has only the jurisdiction in Kosovo. Borchardt stated further that the similar thing was going on in the neighboring countries, thus the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor tries Serbs in Serbia, the Bosnian Special Chamber on War Crimes tries Bosnians in Bosnia, and the Croatian War Crimes Prosecution tries Croats in Croatia.

In Montenegro though, according to the data of the Third periodical report of Montenegro to the Committee Against Torture in May 2018, there are currently five cases in Montenegro initiated „for the reason of war crimes“. Four out of five cases referring to the war crimes committed on the territory of Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina are still in the process of investigation, while the trial takes place in the Zmajevic case.

According to the indictment, Vlada Zmajevic is charged for murdering several civilians of Albanian nationality on March 30th in 1999 in village Zegra in Kosovo, as a military volunteer of the Yugoslav Army. Zmajevic was arrested in 2016, while the case against him came to the court in September 2017.

Finally, returning to the article of borba.me and the provided data in this text, it is evident that so far there will be no extraditions to the Kosovo tribunal referring to the war crimes during 1999, as well as is evident the purpose wanted to achieve through such media writing and reporting – panic and fear in the public, following the accent to a citizen’s inability to influence any decision allegedly adopted at the closed-door talks.

The portal in4s.net published on April 19th a story about a tanker truck that overturned while taking exit from Mojkovac in the direction of Pljevlja, near the bridge on the Đurđevića Tara river, pointing out that it was a tanker truck that allegedly transported illegally produced cigarettes in a factory in Mojkovac, calling for unknown sources from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

An article entitled “Overturned Tanker Truck Packed with Illegal Cigarettes from Mojkovac?” was followed by a blurry picture of the overturned tanker truck from which you can see the transported goods scattered around.

They stated that the goods allegedly had been collected after a couple of hours and that Veselin Veljovic, the Director of the Police Directorate, took care to hide the whole thing from the eyes of the public.

Since only this portal has transmitted this news – that it did not have an echo in the media in the following days – we decided to investigate its credibility.

Namely, by analyzing the picture, we found that it was not about cigarettes at all, but about orange crates.

The mentioned picture was taken from one of the portals (radiosarajevo.ba, telegraf.rs) that published the news in November 2017 in a completely different context.

In fact, it was a tanker truck that rolled over around Nis, and which transported legally produced oranges from Greece to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the trend of spreading disinformation and propaganda in the media is very present, the trend of spreading fake news is not excluded, as we can see in this example. The display of such content aims to constantly deceive the public knowing how difficult it is today to differentiate fake news from credible ones, and that most of the individuals will not engage themselves in analyzing, but will believe the content during the first and probably the last reading of that news.

The issue of trolls and bots is present on the Internet since the existence of public communication platforms, from chatting to social media. The problem is that these terms are poorly understood and very often misused both in everyday life and in professional communication.

Let us begin with trolling, named after a troll, a malicious creature from Norse mythology, a demon who makes people behave destructively. It is similar to fairies in Slavic mythology.

Trolls on the Internet is the name for users whose comments and messages on public Internet platforms create emotional reactions in people, often initiating long discussions and stream of reactions. The motivation for such behavior on social media may be fun, but most often there is an agenda behind it, usually with the political background.

In Montenegro, the well-known troll page is Stari Liberal with over 17 thousand followers, but there are also many others. Stari Liberal has a secret political agenda and with its publications, it triggers off the reactions of certain ethnic and religious minorities. Its activities influence significantly the creation of public opinion in one part of the public opposition.

The internet bot, also known as the web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that launches automated tasks (scripts) via the Internet and may be used for good purposes, such as SIRI on iOS platform or numerous other virtual assistants on Android operating system. Most frequently, bots execute tasks which are simple and structurally repetitive, on a much higher level than it would be possible for a person to do it. However, for this text, it is interesting the use of bots for political purposes.

In our region, bot is usually the term incorrectly used for party activists who are organized in their offices to comment on social media or portals. Sometimes they do it anonymously, and sometimes from their real accounts. In that context, it is more about trolls and not about bots which represent artificial intelligence, while the mentioned activists are real persons no matter whether they have real or fake profiles on social media.

One of the examples of incorrect use, and at the same time the terminology misunderstanding example, was seen in December 2018 when in the public appeared the news from the session of the Executive Committee of the Serbian Progressive Party (SPP), at which the relevant party member in charge of the Internet team published an annual report stating that the SPP had 3,456 persons who had written for one year 10 million comments on over 200,000 published news. Actually, portals such as Al Jazeera Balkans and Danas, reported on this using the term “party bot” in the context of a party soldier assigned to leave comments on web portals and social media. As was already stated, here is more about trolls than about bots (a software).

Over the last years, bots have become an inevitable part of online life. It is considered that over 50% of Internet traffic makes exactly these automated programs designed to execute automated tasks. Only last year researches estimated that Twitter alone was home to over 30 million of them; however, they also do exist on other platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. Some of them are designed in a way to provoke on purpose or to support certain political candidates and ideas, while others are used for commercial purposes.

Though there are many types of bots, “bot-like activity” is typically used only in reference to Twitter. Retweeting things hundreds of times a day, spamming the same link repeatedly, and using multiple accounts to amplify the same message are all good indicators of bot-like activity, but it does not necessarily mean that the account is a bot.

Misuse of social media

We witness many forms of misuse of social media, platforms, and modern communication types (Viber, WhatsApp) for different purposes, from political to economic and financial, in terms of the damaging reputation of business competition by spreading disinformation.

The possibility to buy followers, number of likes, number of views of video content has opened the additional space for social media misuse. Large companies and marketing agencies more frequently refer to so-called “influencers” as a channel type for advertising and messaging. It has opened an entire market in otherwise creative IT sector, which for a short period of time found a program solution so that anyone with a small amount of money can become an “influencer”. Websites such as Buzzoid offer services of online purchase of likes and followers; one may even purchase a number of views of video content on Instagram. Such and similar websites for online purchase of “popularity” exist almost for all social media, but the misuse most frequently happens on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In this business, as in many others, the rule is “you get what you pay for”, thus the amount of money you are ready to pay determine not only the number of your followers and likes but also the quality of bot profiles following you. If you are ready to pay a larger amount of money, the Internet portals will provide you followers with real names and of geographic origin similar to yours, while for a smaller amount of money you will get followers mostly from India and China, who are of weaker quality, so that even an unskilled person is able to realize that it is a bot profile.

Source: Buzzoid.com

Soon after the rise of these “popularity” sites, marketing companies and experts, in order to prevent to be defrauded and to pay fake influencers for marketing services, have developed their own tools for „quality“ and „authenticity“ check of followers and likes. So that today with a small amount of money and using websites such as fakelikes.info you may check “the quality” of Instagram and Facebook influencers, or the number of their real and fake profiles that follows and likes them, compared to the number of profiles artificially created and purchased through different online shops.

Currently, for us, it is maybe the case of Dusko Knezevic the most interesting, who opted for Instagram as a political communication channel with the public. For the needs of our Magazine, and as a reaction to the writing of portals in4s.net and slobodacg.me, we have done a detailed analysis of his Instagram profile.

For us who deal with social media, it is clear that these leaps in the number of likes do not happen overnight, and that was the “alarm” for more detailed research.

In the photos below, you may see a typical example of bot profiles misuse in order to make a fake performance of support and popularity, what in reality turned out to be a common purchase of bot profiles and journalistic irresponsibility to report on unverified and made up data.

Linking social media with portals has proven to be a powerful weapon for spreading propaganda. Posting on social media is still very anonymous, or it is very hard to trace those who post content on social media, while portals which want to spread a certain type of propaganda refrain themselves from responsibility by “taking” content from social media as a relevant source of information. Additionally, the accountability for posting content on social media, particularly for political purposes, is not clearly defined by law. The election silence prescribed by the laws of Montenegro cannot be applied on the Internet, and we have witnessed all this during previous election cycles.

Examples of misuse

There are numerous examples of misuse and spread of unverified information in mainstream media, when in fact mainstream media did not make additional content check-up or published it on purpose, even though they are aware that it may be disinformation.  Such an example happened during the 2015 opposition protests in Montenegro when after the police breaking up of one of the protests, the opposition FB page “Sloboda trazi ljude” posted a photo of alleged injuries caused to protestors with rubber bullets by the police. This news flooded the media in a couple of minutes, even though a simple Google search could reveal a real source of that photo. This time, the photo was “borrowed” from Kosovo, from riots happening there, which was presented within a couple of minutes and with the help of Facebook and media as the 2015 protest’s breaking up.

The considerable activity of the famous Putin’s bot and troll factory from St. Petersburg was noticed many times both in the media and the Internet space of Serbia. Serbia is for a long time in “the Russian focus” as the most important country for achieving the Russian influence in the Balkans, and consequently the Russian media and Internet “machinery” gives special attention to this country. The factory from St. Petersburg, in which several hundreds of people in two shifts of twelve hours write thousands of political comments, reached the headlines of all international media after the testimony of Lyudmila Savchuk, an internet activist, who worked for two months on a secret mission in the abovementioned “factory” and wrote blog posts with the aim of turning Russians against the West. In later investigations, the very factory was directly connected with the Russian “special media wars” waged in Ukraine, Syria, in Crimea, and so on, with special attention paid to meddling in the American Elections and the elections in several European countries. The activities of this factory have been noticed many times even in the Serbian Internet space, but we would like to single one activity out as a typical example of misuse of emotions for political purposes.

Actually, at the end of December 2016, a terrible aircraft crash occurred in Russia where people from the whole ensemble of the famous army choir “Alexandrov” lost their lives; the army choir Russia was so proud of and promoted it as one of the national symbols and “ambassadors” of the Russian culture. On December 30 of the same year, the basketball club from Belgrade Crvena Zvezda had a match where their supporters honored the fatalities by chanting one of the choral songs. That heart-touching gesture of the supporters Delije found its way within a couple of minutes to almost all Russian portals, from RT to others. Apart from the Russian, all Serbian portals reported on this emotion-provoking news, honoring one of the national symbols of Russia.

However, during these very events, it is created the ideal space for sending political messages of brotherhood and unity of the two nations.

That day, one could find on the Internet thousands of messages, cleverly created and designed to get the affection of the Serbian people. Likewise, a large number of Russians had suddenly started to write as if they were from Serbia, all in the moment of expressed emotions because of the unfortunate and terrible event.

What are the messages that Russia is sending?

1. Russia is strong! It is no more the 1999. No more weak and the West-inclined Yeltsin. Now, there is Putin and he is strong, so as Russia.

2. NATO is a criminal organization. NATO is to blame for all (do not join NATO).

3. Kosovo will be Serbian again, as Crimea is Russian, just stay with us because we are strong now.

If these messages are considered closely, it is noticeable that they reflect exactly the official policy of Kremlin towards Serbia. They get advantage from the frozen conflicts with Kosovo in order to control Serbia with their veto in the UN Security Council. Their plan for Serbia is to keep it away from NATO alliance, and that is why it was important to mention, even during this traumatic and sad event with the Alexandrov Ensemble, who is to blame for the 1999.

Not only that the Russians are direct players in the Balkans’ events, but they also offer very frequently different IT services. Through the current events regarding the “Atlas” affair, it is clear that the Russian IT experts were involved in there. The group behind the association “Gotov je”, composed of the representatives of the parties Demos, Crnogorska and Demokrate, opted for Viber – application largely popular in Montenegro – to have as many dissatisfied citizens as possible join their protests. However, what many Viber users noticed and what made the public wonder is the question why all these messages about the opposition gatherings under the title “Gotov je” were sent from numbers from abroad, particularly from Russia and Belarus. A large part of the messages the Montenegrins received was sent by Viber profiles that already had names there and that indicated the Russian origin: Anna Bratkova Dmitry Maloletkov, Alexander Alexandrov; however, there were also those sent without indicated names and from numbers starting with +7.

The power of bots and trolls lies in their ability to deceive humans. A report by RAND Corporation, an American nonprofit policy think tank, listed a number of recommendations for defending democracies in the advent of malicious bots and trolls on social media. The group’s recommendations include technical approaches such as developing and implementing more effective identification and tagging methods for bots and trolls, as well as “offline” solutions such as educating the public to be more vigilant against fake news and rumors.

Instead of relying solely on social media companies to fight this fight alone, the report recommends that countries educate their citizens on media literacy, expand and improve on content created by local trustworthy news outlets, allowing it to better compete with foreign state-sponsored propaganda, and empower influencers on social media.

The topic of NATO on the territory of Montenegro and Serbia is an inexhaustible source for various conspiracy theories, placing unverified information and disinformation.

One of those topics, which was and still is alive, not only in the media but in the public as well, is that Montenegro has not had and will not have economic benefits in terms of increased foreign direct investment since joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Guided by this and the recent writing of IN4S portal, which states that “Montenegro’s flattering to NATO has no benefits”, “no increase from the member states’ investments since joining the Alliance”, and “that Russia is the largest investor alongside Azerbaijan”, we have decided to analyze this issue, through a chronological comparison of the investments of NATO member states on one and the Russian Federation on the other side.

Data available and taken from the Central Bank of Montenegro are very clear and confirm that foreign direct investments from 2018 are much more significant compared to the ones from 2017, but also to the previous years. Specifically, among NATO member states, the biggest investors were: Italy – EUR 116 million, Hungary – EUR 59 million, Turkey – EUR 53 million and UK – EUR 48 million.