On 4 July, information about an incident was circulated in the social network Facebook and online media as if, earlier at night, in Tbilisi, three Arabs had raped a Georgian girl. The page of the Georgian March was the first-hand source of the information posted on Facebook. In its turn, the Facebook page of the Georgian March relied on the portal Mystar.ge. According to the material posted on Mystar.ge, the incident was witnessed by one Ukrainian and five Polish tourists, who approached the girl, at which time the rapist Arabs fled the scene. The girl did not wish to report the incident to the police as she was keen to avoid publicity and did not believe the culprits would be duly punished. The publication called upon the public to protest.
Apart from the social network, the news was reported by online media as well, namely, on the websites of newspapers Alia and Rezonansi and up to ten tabloid portals. The news elicited a huge outcry from social network users, which was also expressed through a great number of comments and shares. Furthermore, most of the comments had xenophobic contents. There were calls for violence motivated by hate.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, there has been no such incident reported to the police. The photo attached to the circulated disinformation, suggesting that it depicts the actual incident, dates back to as early as April 2017 (established through an image search system). The stock photo was used by Turkish portal Mynet.com to illustrate the arrest of a Turkish police officer who had raped a woman in Kayseri.
Statement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs
On 4 July, the Ministry of Internal Affairs made, a special statement concerning this issue. According to the ministry, no such incident had been reported to the police. Furthermore, the ministry urged the public to report to the police in case they had any information about the issue.
Manipulative Visuals and Description
According to the news spread by Mystar.ge and the Facebook page of the Georgian March, the source of information that a girl from Rustavi was raped by three Arabs near the circus is a “citizen”, although not identified. The incident was witnessed by one Ukrainian and five Polish tourists who ran up to the girl, after which the Arabs fled. The girl, despite much pleading, did not report the issue to the police as she believed that they would not duly investigate it. Apart from the alleged victim of sexual violence, neither witnesses are identified, nor is a source or evidence of any sort adduced to make the news credible.
The information contains value judgment according to which it is only Georgians that suffer from oppression in Georgia; foreigners have more rights than Georgians and the state does not stand firm in discharging its duties. In the end, the news calls upon the public to hold demonstrations and protests and to disseminate the information as well.
Furthermore, Mystar.ge and other websites attached a photo to the information about the rape of a girl that is completely unrelated to the alleged incident and alludes that it depicts the actual crime. The said photo has been a stock image in the Internet since 2017 and it is mostly used by tabloid media outlets, various blogs and portals to illustrate violent contents. According to the reverse image search system Tineye.com, the oldest material using this photo dates back to April 2017. The material was published on Turkish portal Mynet.com, according to which a police officer, who had raped a woman, was arrested in the city of Kayseri.
The Fake News Dissemination Scheme
The fake news was first posted on the Facebook on the page of the “Georgian March” The Georgian March cited the website mystar.ges the source of the material. Later various websites and groups were spammed within the span of a few minutes. The Facebook profiles that posted this article in closed and open groups were mostly anonymous accounts of dubious origin. For instance, in a group bearing a harmless name Positive the material was posted by a representative of the group administration – user Gio Mujirishvili – who has the photo of a Brazilian model Francisco Lachowski as a personal profile photo His identity cannot be established based on the posted information.
|Date||Facebook page /group|
|July 4||Georgian March|
Without any verification, the news was also circulated by the following media outlets and portals: Alia; Rezonansi; Geodaigest.ge; Notification.ge; Geonewest.com; Saintereso.tk; and Geoambebi.ge. Alia has cited Mystar.ge as the original source and Rezonansi cited the Facebook page called Individuals that had shared the article from the Facebook page of the Georgian March. Apart from the websites and Facebook pages of dubious origin, information was also circulated in the Russian social network “Odnoklassniki”. namely the group We Rejoice Life bringing together more than 138,000 members.
Myth Detector Lab