Politics

Newly Created Facebook Pages and Old Trolls Rush to Protect Bera and Confront Journalists

15 March, 2021

March 6, TV Pirveli aired an audio conversation allegedly between Bera Ivanishvili, Irakli Garibashvili and Anzor Chubinidze whose authenticity was initially questioned by the Georgian Dream lawmakers and dubbed as “a fabrication.” However, in the interview with Imedi TV on March 9, Bera Ivanishvili, son of the ruling party founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, did not deny that he punished those who insulted him and his family by writing undesirable comments on social media. Shortly after Bera’s interview was aired, the Georgian Dream members started to talk not about the authenticity of the audio recordings, but about Bera protecting his personal dignity, noting that it is the duty of all “Georgian men” to adequately respond to insults against their mothers. Some lawmakers tried to compare current and previous governments by recollecting the incidents that took place under the previous government.

After TV Pirveli aired the covert audio recordings, prompting the opposition and civil society organizations to demand their investigation, posts and comments supporting Bera emerged on social media, on the one hand, and a campaign discrediting journalists, including Nodar Meladze, was unleashed, on the other. Two new Facebook pages (ჟურნალისტი (Journalist), ნოდარ მეზღაპრე (Nodar Storyteller) were created to discredit journalists; moreover, two new pages (ვიდეო . Video, ჟურნალისტური მარგალიტები (Journalistic Pearls)) created after the detention of Nika Melia, leader of the opposition United National Movement party, also got involved in the campaign of discrediting media outlets critical of the government. The posts of newly created pages were spread by old pages discrediting the opposition (Mikheil Ukrainologi, Terenti Gldaneli, Enemies of the County) with identical comments, suggesting that these pages may be administered by one group with links to the government.

Myth Detector has identified 30 trolls involved in the campaign. They were expressing support to Bera Ivanishvili and praising his family, on the one hand, and simultaneously recollecting the situation under the previous government to overshadow current developments, on the other.

Facebook pages

Two new Facebook pages ჟურნალისტი (Journalist) and ნოდარ მეზღაპრე (Nodar Storyteller) were created immediately after the covert audio recordings were aired (on March 8 and March 9, respectively). Both are targeting TV Pirveli and personally Nodar Meladze. In addition, the page ნოდარ მეზღაპრე is sponsored.

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Two new Facebook pages created after the detention of UNM leader Nika Melia have also joined the campaign against journalists. The pages ვიდეო and ჟურნალისტური მარგალიტები were created on February 25 and February 24, respectively.

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All the four pages are used to discredit journalists from those TV channels that are critical of the ruling party.

All the posts published by Facebook page “ჟურნალისტი” (Journalist) are targeting journalists of TV Pirveli, Mtavari Arkhi TV and Formula TV.

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On the third day of airing the audio recordings during TV Pirveli’s program Nodar Meladze’s Saturday, a new page ნოდარ მეზღაპრე (Nodar Storyteller) emerged on Facebook. The page has published two posts so far and both aim at discrediting the journalist. One of the videos (archive) has been doctored to leave an impression that the journalist calls himself a phallus.

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Facebook page “ჟურნალისტური მარგალიტები” (Journalistic Pearls) is also involved in the campaign of discrediting journalists. It shares the materials identical to those of the second page, as well as other materials shared by other pages discrediting opponents.

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For example, after the Tbilisi City Court approved the Prosecutor’s Office’s motion to retrieve Bera Ivanishvili’s audio recordings from TV Pirveli, the pages supporting Georgian Dream and discrediting the opposition simultaneously spread the video and screenshots from TV Pirveli’s special program. The accompanying captions mainly focused on mournful atmosphere in the TV studio:

  • Journalistic Pearls - What are they mourning for?
  • Mikheil Ukrainologi – “Whose funeral is it?”
  • Enemies of the Country – “They are standing like attending a funeral”
  • Terenti Gldaneli – “Let them post a funeral’s video”

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Identical posts against the journalists from Formula TV and Mtavari Arkhi TV were spread by the pages Journalist, Journalistic Pearls and Enemies of the Country.

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Journalists were also targeted by one more Facebook page ვიდეო . Video created on February 25. Besides journalists, the page was also targeting the opposition.

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Older anti-opposition pages also joined the discrediting campaign against the journalists from Mtavari Arkhi TV and TV Pirveli. On March 7-8, “სექტა,” “მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი” and “ტერენტი გლდანელი” spread a fragment from the program of TV Pirveli host, Maia Mamulashvili with sarcastic texts. The page “ნაცების დასაცინი ოფიციალური სააგენტო” (Official Agency Mocking at the National Movement) published a satirical post, as if Mamulashvili was calling on Georgian people to constantly watch her program. One more insulting illustration featuring Maia Mamulashvili and Roman Gotsiridze of the UNM party also belongs to this page.

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After Imedi TV aired the interview with Bera Ivanishvili, other anti-opposition Facebook pages also intensified their efforts to discredit the journalists and TV channels. The pages “მიმების გამავრცელებელი საზოგადოება,” “ქვეყნის მტრები” and “ნაცები, შმაცები და შმაცუნები” were accusing Mtavari Arkhi TV and TV Pirveli of spreading disinformation.

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Prior to Bera Ivanishvili’s interview, the Facebook pages were spreading a fragment from Nika Gvaramia’s speech, where he said the following words: “This video that was made by TV Pirveli…” The fragment was later used to promote a narrative about the audio recordings being fabricated. Facebook page მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი was the first to publish the video at 00:30 on March 7, few hours after the audio recordings were aired. Within 12 minutes, the same video was posted by “სექტა” and Political Sarcasm, while “ტერენტი გლდანელი” spread the video in the morning on March 7. A day later, on March 8, the video was uploaded on Facebook page “ქვეყნის მტრები.”
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On March 7, an identical video was posted on Facebook page “მიხეილ უკრაილოგი” and five minutes later - on “სექტა.” The UNM supporters are using similar insulting words in the videos. 

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Prior to airing the program about audio recordings, POSTV director Shalva Ramishvili published a screenshot of the post by Eka Gigauri, director of Transparency International Georgia, where the latter shares the program announcement. It prompted Ramishvili to accuse Gigauri of double standards. Later, two posts with the same content were also published by Facebook page Mikheil Ukrainologi.

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To diminish the significance of audio recordings, the anti-opposition pages were spreading funny memes and posts accusing Bera of everything, including killing a black kite from Georgian movie Chrichina, burning Jeanne d’Arc and so on. The memes with such content and visual appearance were first posted by მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი on March 8; a day later, on March 9, მიმების გამავრცელებელი საზოგადოება and ტერენტი გლდანელი also joined the process. .


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The same “humor” series involved a fake screenshot of the post by Mtavari Arkhi TV, which allegedly accused Bera of murdering famous American rapper 2Pac.

Trolls

Myth Detector has identified 30 trolls that intensified their efforts after the covert audio recordings were aired:

  • Two categories of trolls were identified: those stealing others’ identities (5 trolls) and trolls hiding their own identities (25 trolls).
  • One part of government trolls was spreading messages in support of Bera Ivanishvili and his family, as well as Georgian Dream lawmakers; the other part was trying to diminish the significance of the fact by recollecting the situation under previous government and discrediting the protest rally and its participants.
  • 16 out of 30 trolls have liked government pages, pro-government news agencies and pages discrediting the opposition.
  • The URLs of 7 out of 30 trolls include other names that may indicate their real or other additional identities.
  • 7 out of 30 trolls were leaving similar or absolutely identical comments to the posts published by various news agencies.
  • 9 out of 30 trolls were leaving insulting comments against media outlets (TV Pirveli, Mtavari Arkhi, Radio Liberty, Tabula) and journalists.
  • 9 out of 30 trolls were involved in the campaigns supporting the government and discrediting the opposition in the past as well.

Comments made by various trolls aimed at discrediting journalists.

 


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Fake accounts were also hinting at the fabrication of recordings and were recollecting the National Movement’s past.

 

 

 

 


 

Trolls were expressing support to Ivanishvili’s family:
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Trolls were also criticizing the protests organized against the covert audio recordings:

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Trolls stealing others’ identities

Nene Sakvarelidze
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Steals the identity of Russian singer, Alena Apina

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Has liked government pages POSTV, Kakha Kaladze კახა კალაძე

შინაგან საქმეთა სამინისტრო / Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia,განათლების, მეცნიერების, კულტურისა და სპორტის სამინისტრო.

Алкс Акса
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The profile URL includes the name gardenltd, uses the photo of a military commander from Donetsk, Mikhail Tolstykh as a profile picture.

Mari Kakalashvili
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Steals the identity of Lexi Lore; shared information from a clickbait site აქ საქართველოა 🇬🇪, according to which Giorgi Gakharia has spread the recordings.
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რა გინდა რა გინდა
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Uses Nanka Kalatozishvili’s photo as a profile picture.

Irma Lekiashvili
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Steals the identity of odnoklassniki.ru user, Svetlana;

Has liked government pages, shares the posts supporting Bera Ivanishvili and Georgian Dream both on personal Facebook page and to various public groups.

Irma Lekiashvili uses the photo that was previously used by government troll Mariam Svanidze who was identified by the Media Development Foundation in its 2019 report; participated in the campaign discrediting the November 2020 election protests.


Trolls indicating other names in their URLs

Nino Japaridze Japaridze
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Hides own identity, the profile URL includes the name aqsesuari.minanqari, has liked the pages supporting the government.

 

Gocha Gocha
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Hides own identity, the profile URL includes the name levani.tamuna, has liked the pages: POSTV - ანალიტიკა, ქართული ოცნება / Georgian Dream and the pages of news agencies

Giorgi Iamanidze
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Hides own identity, the profile URL includes the name ekaterine.guncadze, has liked the pages supporting Georgian Dream and discrediting the opposition; participated in the campaign discrediting the November 2020 election protests. 

გრიშა გელოვანი
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Hides own identity, the profile URL includes the name mzisa.damtvarisa, has liked the pages of news agencies and government, has written comments against Nika Melia and Giorgi Gakharia, has left comments to several posts, including the post about the protest of dignity.

აბი გლუკოზა
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Newly created profile, hides own identity, the profile URL includes the name rshermandini; has liked POSTV - ახალი ამბები; has left comment to the live stream of the protest of dignity; after Nika Melia’s detention, left comment to Carl Hartzell’s statement about deepening the political crisis.

მაიკო ცაგურია
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Hides identity, the profile URL includes the name baskantera, has liked Georgian Dream’s pages. Myth Detector has already spotted the fake account previously.


Trolls hiding their identities

ლია ლია
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Does not post identification information, shares the posts discrediting the opposition

Theona Chogonaidze
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Hides own identity, has liked the pages supporting the government, shares the posts of Georgian Dream politicians to personal page

Chris Norman
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Does not post identification information, has liked POSTV Analytics 

Monblan Monblan
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Does not post identification information, has liked POSTV Analytics, Shalva Ramishvili

Alexs Alexs
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Does not post identification information, majority of friends are fake accounts. 

Viktoria Viki Viktoria
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Does not post identification information, is not active on personal wall, has left comments on the pages of several news agencies. 

Irina Baramidze
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Newly created profile, has seven friends, shares the posts supporting the government and discrediting the opposition; has liked the pages linked to Shalva Ramishvili, supporting the government and discrediting the opposition.

Nanu Ka
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Does not post identification photos, is not active on personal wall. 

ვაჟა ზაზაევიჩი
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Does not post identification photos, is not active on personal wall.

Giga Lejo
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Newly created account, does not post identification information.

Tero Terora
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Does not post identification information, has 10 friends. 

ჯორჯ ცაავა
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Newly created account, posts the photos depicting Santa Claus; has liked the pages of news agencies. 

გოგლიკო სტურუა Teklatelka)
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Does not post identification photos, has liked government pages. 

DK NY
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Uses the photo of a realistic baby doll sold on various websites as a profile picture; shares the posts by Mikheil Ukrainologi, Shame Corridor and POSTV.

Tato Dadiani
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Does not post personal photos, has liked the pages supporting the government and discrediting the opposition.

Goga Beraya
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Hides own identity, has liked the pages of several news agencies, was involved in the campaign against protests held after Nika Melia’s detention, shares the posts discrediting the opposition.

Niki Fore
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Does not post identification information.

Taso Taso
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Hides own identity, has liked the pages supporting Georgian Dream. 

Nina Maisuradze
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Hides own identity, has 12 friends, has liked the pages of pro-government media outlets (Shalva Ramishvili, POSTV), as well as the pages of Georgian Dream leaders; Myth Detector has already spotted the fake account previously; the account has trolls among friends: Goga Beraya, Gela Mgeladze, who leave their comments to the posts.


Prepared by Ani Kistauri and Mariam Dangadze