Politics

Facebook Trolls Discrediting Mikheil Saakashvili in a Coordinated Manner

2 November, 2021

After the return and arrest of Mikheil Saakashvili, several coordinated campaigns were launched on the social network to disseminate disinformation and discredit the third president of Georgia.

  1. During October 30-31st, the period of the second round of the 2021 local self-government elections and its aftermath, a number of fabricated quotes were spread in the name of Mikheil Saakashvili. By using fake Facebook accounts, false supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili attached logos of “Mtavari Arkhi” and “TV Pirveli” to fake screenshots and distribute them among supporters, making them believe that there was a confrontation between Saakashvili and other members of the United National Movement. The fabricated quotes spread disinformation as if Saakashvili encouraged his supporters to assemble in front of the Gldani prison instead of going to the elections and later blamed Nika Melia for losing the elections.
  2. The most widespread disinformation was about Saakashvili granting Georgian citizenship to 28,000 Turkish citizens, which in fact, has been a part of a large-scale disinformation campaign for years now. In reality, in 2004-2018, a total of 3,050 citizens of Turkey were granted Georgian citizenship, of which only 2,866 cases occurred during the rule of the United National Movement.
  3. In parallel with a rally demanding the release of Saakashvili on Freedom Square in Tbilisi on October 14th, a photo of a hearse with a picture of Mikheil Saakashvili was circulating on government-affiliated websites, claiming that it depicted the march by Saakashvili’s supporters. In fact, the picture was taken on October 6th, 2016, and depicts Mikheil Saakashvili’s mock funeral organized by Tristan Tsitelashvili’s civil movement “Our Homeland” in front of the US embassy.

"Myth Detector" revealed a total of 32 Facebook accounts, 17 pages and 29 public groups involved in the discreditation campaign, whose posts were distributed during the 2021 local elections:

Trolls

  • Out of 31 Facebook accounts that spread discrediting posts of Georgian Dream political opponents, 10 are fake profiles;
  • 7 Facebook accounts steal the identities of various social network users.
  • 7 Facebook accounts that steal other people’s identities are subscribers to the discrediting pages of the ‘Georgian Dream’ opponents and distribute their posts intensively.
  •  2 The Facebook account indicate a different name in the profile link. A Facebook user, Tabidze Tato, who shared fabricated quotes in the name of the third president in the groups composed of Saakashvili’s supporters, steals the identity of Vkontakte.ru user Aleksandr Ulyanov and indicates ‘Puplic.Enemien’ in the URL. Similarly, the URL address of Glakhuna Avshanidze indicates the name ‘sopiko.getsadze.’

Other Facebook accounts

  • 5 Facebook accounts disseminating disinformation about Saakashvili are pro-governmental and affiliated with the Georgian Dream, while 1 is a supporter of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia;
  • Of the 17 Facebook pages, four are pro-governmental and regularly discredit the opposition.
  • One of the 7 Facebook pages was created on July 22nd, 2021.
  • One of the pages, "Miss Décolleté 2018", which is linked to POS TV (pro-governmental media) presenter Nino Adamashvili, poses as an entertainment page, but in addition to entertaining posts, publishes political content;
  • 2 Facebook pages are far-right and distribute the posts of Facebook user Beka Anjaparidze in a coordinated manner;
  • 2 Facebook pages are linked with information agency “Resonance” – a pro-governmental outlet.
  •  Disinformation posts were shared 39 times in 29 public groups in 2020-2021. 11 of these groups are linked to the Georgian Dream;
  •  7 out of 29 groups are affiliated with the supporters of the "Patriots’ Alliance".

 Fake Accounts sharing Disinformation

Fake Account

Whose identity is it stealing?

1. Tabidze Tato
"

Profile link indicates ‘Puplic.Enemie’, steals the identity of Vkontakte.ru user Александр Ульянов. The account is no longer available.
"

2. David gelashvili
"

Steals the identity of a Hungarian ballet dancer Vladyslav Melnyk. Likes pages supportive of the Georgian Dream and critical of the UNM.
"

3. Thomas Christo
"

The newly created account conceals its identity, does not share personal photos and information. One of the two Facebook pages he likes is ‘Time for Truth,’ which opposes the United National Movement and supports the Georgian Dream.
"

4.Kato Barbakadze
"

Steals the identity of Vkontakte user Светлана Артемчик. Likes pages supportive of the Georgian Dream and critical of the UNM
"

5. მალხაზი გოგოხია [Malkhazi Gogokhia]
"
 

Steals the identity of Vkontakte user Виталий Минин. Likes pages supportive of the UNM, also the pages that discredit the supporters of both Georgian Dream and UNM.
"

6.Ирма Абашидзе
"

Steals the identity of BigBookName.com user  Valeriya Goginashvili-Smolnikova. Likes pages that discredit the supporters of both Georgian Dream and UNM.
"

7. ზაზა სვანიძე [Zaza Svanidze]
"

Steals the identity of Instagram user Дмитрий Деревнин. Likes Facebook pages created to discredit the Georgian Dream.
"

8.Archil Zedginidze
"

Steals the identity of Vkontakte user Александр Гвинский. Likes Facebook pages created to discredit the UNM.

"

9. გლახუნა ავშანისძე [Glakhuna Avshanidze]

"

The URL link indicates the name ‘sopiko.getsadze.’
"Image removed.

10. თორ ნიკე [Tor Nike]
"Image removed.

Conceals their identity, publishes discrediting posts of Mikheil Saakashvili and the National Movement in their own managed Facebook group "Wikipedia."

Out of 14 pages that have been spreading disinformation regarding the former president Saakashvili, 2 were pro-governmental, 2 aimed to discredit the opponents of the incumbent Georgian Dream party, 2 had a far-right orientation, 1 posed as an entertainment-focused outlet, 5 had a pro-governmental editorial policy and 2 had various purposes.

When it comes to the groups that have hosted the above-mentioned disinformation posts, 12 of them are pro-governmental and included content aimed at discrediting the opponents of the government, 7 of them were supportive of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, 4 were nationalist and 6 had various purposes.


False supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili involved in the campaign to discredit the former president and the "United National Movement"

During October 30-31st, the period of the second round of the 2021 local self-government elections and its aftermath, the Facebook user “Tabidze Tato” attached logos of “Mtavari Arkhi” and “TV Pirveli” to fake screenshots and distributed them among supporters, making them believe that there was a confrontation between Saakashvili and other members of the United National Movement. The fabricated quotes spread disinformation as if Saakashvili encouraged his supporters to assemble in front of the Gldani prison instead of going to the elections and later blamed Nika Melia for losing the elections. Apart from Tato Tabidze, two other profiles  (Thomas Christo, David Gelashvili)  have been sharing the fabricated quotes on their personal pages.

 


Noteworthy, the Facebook user “Tato Tabidze’s” Profile link indicates ‘Puplic.Enemie’, steals the identity of Vkontakte.ru user Александр Ульянов. To gain credibility, the Facebook account added members and supporters of the United National Movement to its friends’ list and created posts in support of Mikheil Saakashvili. Tabidze Tato also ran the Facebook group Freedom to President Saakashvili, which was created on February 9th, 2020, under the name "Leaders in Alliance with Mikheil Saakashvili," and has only been renamed on October 10th, 2021. On October 30th, the group's administrator, Tabidze Tato, published false quotes and disinformation against Mikheil Saakashvili and Sandra Roelofs and tried to discredit the United National Movement. The same account published photos and captions against Saakashvili and the United National Movement on October 13th, the day before the rally in support of Mikheil Saakashvili.
"Image removed.
As for the Facebook account David Gelashvili, whose shared posts identical to that of Tabidze Tato, they steal the identity of Vladislav Melnik, who has been a member of the Hungarian State Opera troupe since 2015. The account of Thomas Christo is newly created and it does not disclose any information that would allow us to identify them.

"Image removed.
Myth Detector identified 5 additional accounts that have been stealing the identities of various social media users. These accounts have been spreading false information published by the Facebook page "Dzala Simartlershia" to various public groups, including a group of supporters of the "National Movement". According to this information, a team of doctors from Hopkins University was arriving in Georgia to visit Mikheil Saakashvili under the leadership of Professor Jonathan Sins.

 


The above-mentioned fake profiles follow the pages that are aimed at discrediting"Georgian Dream" opponents. By copying their content and using the same technique of attaching the logos of TV Pirveli and Mtavari Arkhi to their fabricated screenshots, one can denote the linkage between them.

Pages Liked by Fake Accounts

 

 

Posts Shared by Fake Accounts

 


Who shared the photo depicting the protest performance from 2016 with a false description?

In parallel with a rally demanding the release of Saakashvili on Freedom Square in Tbilisi on October 14th, a photo of a hearse with a picture of Mikheil Saakashvili was circulating on government-affiliated websites, claiming that it depicted the march by Saakashvili’s supporters. An identical photo was published on the Facebook page of "Season TV" on the same day.
"Image removed.
On October 15th, a photo of a hearse with the picture of Mikheil Saakashvili was posted on the Facebook page "Miss Decollete 2018". Within a few hours of posting, the false information was removed from the page.

"Image removed.

The page is linked to POS TV and its host Nino Adamashvili, and in addition to excerpts from Shalva Ramishvili's programs, it also publishes posts supportive of the government.
"Image removed.
On October 15th, the false information involving the hearse and Saakashvili was disseminated in a coordinated manner by Facebook groups linked with pro-governmental Marshalpress and Resonance.

"Image removed.
On October 14th, an identical post was published on the Facebook profile of the editor in chief of "Marshalpress", Oto Stepanishvili. On the same day, Stepanishvili shared the material of "Marshalpress" into the public group Georgians World Center Всемирный центр грузин Gürc.
"Image removed.

"Image removed.
When was the false information about Saakashvili granting Georgian citizenship to 28,000 Turkish citizens disseminated and who was behind it?

Disinformation about Saakashvili granting Georgian citizenship to 28,000 Turkish citizens was circulated periodically in 2021-2020, nonetheless, after Saakashvili’s return, the disinformation became transformed into a campaign. Prior to the rally in support of Saakashvili, allegations of ex-president's guilt were accompanied by a photo taken during his service in the Border Army. 

The following screenshots depict the comprehensive picture of the Facebook pages and groups that were involved in the discreditation campaign, as well as its timeframe and utilized imagery:


"Image removed.
 

."Image removed."Image removed.

"Image removed.

"Image removed.

"Image removed.

"Image removed.


"Image removed.


"Image removed.
"Image removed.

"Image removed.
 

Facebook Accounts

 

Facebook Groups
 

 


The above-mentioned disinformation was spread on the social network in the winter, spring and summer of 2021 as well.

The screenshots below indicate the Facebook pages and groups that were involved in disseminating the false claims in 2021.

Facebook Groups
"Image removed.
 

Facebook Accounts

 

 

Facebook Groups

 


2020
Posts containing disinformation about Saakashvili granting Georgian citizenship to 28,000 Turkish citizens in one day was also disseminated in 2020. For example, on November 16th, Facebook user Glakhuna Avshanisdze, whose URL indicates the name - ‘sopiko.getsadze’ published a post spreading the false allegations.

"Image removed.

The following screenshots depict the Facebook entities that were involved in disseminating the false claims in 2020.

"Image removed.

"Image removed.


"Image removed.


By Ani Kistauri