Manipulation Dressed Up in White Coats

Gagik Aghbalyan

Russian-language content, photos and text about prostatitis, and an offer to buy a drug called Uretramol at 50% off. Added to this, the Republic of Armenia coat of arms and “Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Armenia” written in Russian. This is the appearance of websites that try to sell drugs to overcome prostatitis in Armenian circles on social media.

The Ministry of Healthcare informed Media.am that it has nothing to do with these sites or the drugs. Those advertising the drugs simply use the ministry’s name, to appear credible before site visitors.

For example, an article from news-4fream.ru presents information about prostatitis as supposed statistical data — based on non-existent analysis of the non-existent “Central Scientific Research Institute of the Informatization and Organization of Healthcare of the Republic of Armenia.” The healthcare ministry’s name and logo appear in the website’s header. 

The article supposedly cites responses by RA Ministry of Healthcare chief urologist Ruben Melkumyan (a made-up first and last name) about prostatitis. The picture in the photo is not Ruben Melkumyan. Through a Google Image search, we discover that the person in the photo is urologist Dr. Ashok Mehta, from India.

The article is structured such as to show that it supposedly has numerous positive comments. In reality, the comments advertising Uretramol and touting its effectiveness against prostatitis are published as photos and are likewise fake.

When you click on any section on news-4dream.ru, it goes to news-top-rated.com. At the same time, an article from sale-health-official.ru opens up in a new pop-up window, which is likewise advertising and again offers visitors to order and buy the corresponding drug. Here, supposedly expert opinions are expressed by experienced doctors. A photo supposedly of Garik Manukyan is actually of surgeon Taron Taronyan, and the photo is lifted from armeniasputnik.am.

Searching in a database of domain news, who.is, we learn that information about the domains news-4dream.ru and sale-health-official.ru is unavailable. 

Not only the fake site method is used for advertising — there is similar content on Facebook. For example, one of the fake Facebook pages, “1 way for joints and back pain,” uses the photo of anesthesiologist Samvel Kochinyan. In conversation with Media.am, Kochinyan said he’s not on Facebook and has nothing to do with the page in question.

These at first sight seemingly small manipulations and fraud perhaps wouldn’t be noticed if there was no mass interest in them. Not everyone can verify information from websites and social media, and many may be deceived by such confusing advertising.

Gagik Aghbalyan

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