UK recruiter targeted by “Russian war misinformation hit job”

UK recruiter targeted by “Russian war misinformation hit job”
/ bne IntelliNews
By Jason Corcoran in London May 29, 2023

Adzuna, a UK-founded global recruitment website, claims it was the victim of an elaborate “Russian war misinformation hit job.”

The company, which is one of the top job posting sites in the UK, ran an advertisement last week seeking “military specialists with good health and psychological stability” from North Africa and the Middle East to take part in the Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia. In return, the mercenaries were being offered GBP20,000 ($24,700), along with UK or European Union citizenship, after their contract expires.

Chief executive Doug Munro said Adzuna appears to be “the target of a Russian war misinformation hit job.”

“We've frozen the ad and are co-operating with various investigations and trying to be transparent about it, so this doesn't happen again to others,” said Munro. “We are all pawns in this terrible conflict. I guess we should take it as a compliment, but it makes me feel a bit used too.”

Adzuna, which operates in 20 countries globally, told bne IntelliNews it is co-operating with the Metropolitan police in the UK to investigate the origins of the hoax, which they believe was concocted by Russians or pro-Russian sympathisers.

The location of the recruiter for the vacancy titled “Military Maintenance Technician is given as "Sands End,” a district in Hammersmith, west London.

Adzuna said it had since removed any content in the ad that would allow any jobseeker to get in touch with the employer, such as the location, email address, name of the contact person, company name, and the slogan “Support Ukraine” in the description.

“We do need to keep the job ad live to investigate what happened further,” said Adzuna spokesman Samantha Chan.

A year ago, Adzuna suspended all commercial operations for its Russian website because the company did not want any association with the current Russian leadership or its military actions in Ukraine.

“We are saddened that this decision may make it more difficult for Russian jobseekers, who have nothing to do with the conflict, to find jobs, but we feel we have no choice,” Munro wrote at the time.

Russian propaganda and false narratives are being ramped up ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive. Some of the misinformation, which can be traced back to Russian-language users, is often amplified by right-wing figures and pro-Russian politicians in the West. Every year, about 14mn people are exposed to scam job listings, according to a report from the Better Business Bureau. These listings account for more than $2bn in direct losses annually. 

The Adzuna post was subsequently circulated on the popular Russian messaging service Telegram and Twitter, where it was retweeted by George Galloway, the Russia Today TV contributor and former MP, and another account, which recently shared fake photographs of an explosion at the Pentagon in Washington.

Adzuna told bne IntelliNews that the website does its utmost to authenticate clients’ personal information but there are certain limits to online identity verification.

“As with many job search engines, we do take extensive measures to remove fraudulent or otherwise illegal content,” explained Chan. “We remove substantial amounts of content every week amongst the millions of job ads that, as a global job search engine, we display.”

However, the chief executive of a traditional London-based recruiter said hoaxes are becoming commonplace on online job aggregators.

“Some of these aggregators are giving recruitment a bad name,” said the chief executive. “Many of these sites scrape postings from other job boards and do little background checking due to the sheer volume of job ads that they post.”

The UK is the second-biggest donor to Ukraine, having delivered GBP4.6bn ($5.7bn) in military assistance so far and recently committed to training Ukrainian fast jet pilots.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently confirmed that the UK would in the coming months send "hundreds" of both air defence missiles and long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200 km to fend off Russia's invasion.

Last month, Britain became the first Western country to offer long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, sending its Storm Shadow rockets.

It was estimated last year that about 3,000 British volunteers are fighting on the Ukrainian side in the war against Russia, as part of a 20,000-strong foreign soldier force.

Georgians form the largest proportion of foreign fighters in Ukraine, with British recruits making up the second-biggest contingent.

Mamuka Mamuashvili, a Georgian commander, told Sky News last year there are around 3,000 British volunteers currently fighting on the Ukrainian side but the UK government does not officially track the number of Britons going to Ukraine.

Jordan Gately, a 24-year-old Briton, was shot and killed in June last year in the city of Severodonetsk after a violent clash with Russian soldiers. A former British Army soldier, Gately joined the International Legion along with other troops from outside Ukraine after an appeal by President Zelenskiy.

In November, five British nationals captured by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine were returned to the UK after Saudi Arabia said it had brokered an exchange.

Two of the men, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, had been sentenced to death in July after being branded as mercenaries.