Special Reports

Nigerians recount experiences with Alexandra’s scam video after Dubawa’s investigation

The DUBAWA open-source investigation on the Israeli-based “Netiv Halev” chain of fraudsters, who runs sponsored ads to defraud people, has generated reactions from many people who have encountered the scam.

Dubawa recently reported how a multifaceted network of scammers sponsor ads portraying little girls as desolate cancer patients pleading for financial support in emotional videos on Facebook, Youtube and Google Ads.

In the viral video, a 9-year-old Alexandra and the other girls were seen in tears. The girls tearfully revealed that their agonising condition only gives them little chance of survival if they do not get the needed money for treatment. 

These videos have tricked unsuspecting victims into donating their hard-earned money for the cause, which has been running for more than two years in different versions.

Following DUBAWA’s recent publication, readers on different platforms expressed surprises, indifferences and thankfulness for the expose.

Disbelief abounds… And prayer for healing

The report raised several opinions as some noted that the red flags in the sponsored ads were easy to notice. 

On Twitter, Son Of Jesse (@bolajibadmus) believed that a person in need of financial help in a situation like this will not think of running a sponsored ad, except if it was a business deal.

For Tofu Tomato (@oluwatofunmii_), the cost used to run the ads would have contributed to the amount needed for the treatment, which made the malicious intent obvious.

https://twitter.com/oluwatofunmii_/status/1557337752361910275?s=20&t=IRWFaR68phmOrDp0ff5xXw

In support, Jayan of Africa (@Jayan_ofafrica) said running an ad on Youtube costs a fortune and it should have gone into treating the girl if she was truly in need.

Some, still unaware of the fraudulent scheme, offered prayers for Alexandra’s divine healing. They rendered their prayers in Dubawa’s Facebook comment section.

Some other users, including Dr Chinonso Egemba (@aproko_doctor), emphasised the need to take extra care while providing card details on platforms that cannot be trusted.

Platforms’ responsibility

Some users called for more responsibility from digital platforms. One of them, Roy, who commented on the post on the DUBAWA website called for legal actions against Google.

“Google must be sued,” the user wrote. “I believe if they are, they will indeed vet videos, ads before allowing such to the public. It shows they are either aware or conspirators . You can’t allow scammers use your platform to commit fraudulent act and claim not to be aware. It’s irresponsible. Google must be sued for allowing fake ads, apps on their platform. They must take responsibility for their actions.”

Further calls were made for sanctions against the platforms to ensure the protection of users from cyber fraud. David, who also commented on the DUBAWA website, wants YouTube sanctioned. 

“This is evil. Like this ad always pops up on YouTube. I think YouTube Should also be held responsible for allowing their platform to be used to defraud people,” the user wrote.

Meanwhile, Ore Afolayan, a tech expert criticised Google for not providing criteria which sponsored ads must meet before going viral.

Compared to Facebook and other platforms, Google -and its subsidiary, YouTube- does not feature a vetting window to access the content of ads placed on the platform.

He said, “On advertising platforms such as Facebook, ad materials (the Creative, Copy, Call-to-action etc) go through a 24-hour vetting window which ensures that ads meet the needed criteria. This process is not a feature on Google (and its subsidiaries, YouTube).

“Anyone with a YouTube page can upload a video, run an In-stream video ad and reach a wider audience. Punitive measures are only applied when someone reports the ad or the channel.”

Regulate Google ads- Expert

Ore, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Reni, a blockchain research company, disclosed that regulating ads on Google and YouTube is possible if measures are put in place.

Among other policies, he suggested Google set up a criterion through which ads must go through.

“It’s possible to regulate this process. All Google ads should pass through a vetting process similar to Facebook.

“Google can also put a threshold of subscribers a YouTube channel needs to have before running ads. These subscribers should not only be fake or bought subscribers but subscribers from the home country of the Advertisers.”

“Insights obtained from periodic surveys, searcher’s history and Search Intent can help Google understand the type of ad or marketing material that people often engage with. This will inform the choice of content that should show up on their Timeline.”

“Google can also ensure that the ad accounts and YouTube Channels of serial defaulters are not only temporarily shadowbanned, but also permanently banned. This will serve as a deterrent to others since nobody wants to lose years of hard work”, he said.

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