Since January 2023, a network of Facebook pages has appeared on the social network, spreading anti-Western messages through sponsored posts. By using the so-called memes, these Facebook pages act in a coordinated manner to amplify misinformation and reinforce stereotypes in society that joining the European Union means rejecting traditional values and strengthening the rights of the LGBTQI community. The identified pages were created in the first half of 2023 and feature “information technology, marketing, musician, buying and selling service” in the category field.
It should also be noted that according to Facebook’s political advertising rules, only authorized users are allowed to place election and political ads, which means that the advertiser must pass authorization and post political ads in such a way as to identify who is responsible for each sponsored ad (Paid for by). In addition, a political advertiser must be authorized in the country in which the ad’s target audience resides. Despite these rules, the identified Facebook pages that advertised to a Georgian audience indicated a different country, and in some cases, they did not indicate a country at all. In addition, the ad library on these pages does not mention who paid for the ad and who is responsible for the ad. Also, in some cases, the mentioned Facebook pages publish posts containing misinformation.
The monitoring carried out by “Myth Detector” identified 7 suspicious Facebook pages, which employ the following tactics:
- In the ads library of each of these pages, we find sponsored memes (combination of image and text) that refer to the false promise of Georgia’s integration into the European Union, a long list of demands, the violation of national and traditional values in case of Georgia’s accession to the European Union, etc;
- The category specified by the Facebook pages does not match the content of the posts in the ad library;
- In most cases, the posts listed in the Ads library are not found on the timeline of the mentioned Facebook page;
- Three of the 7 Facebook pages indicate Ukraine as their location and feature a Ukrainian number;
- In some cases, Facebook pages have published/sponsored posts and memes with identical content and visuals;
- The domain @kuromail.cc, which the e-mail listed on the two Facebook pages ends with, may be connected to a “social network account farm” used for various purposes – social media management or fraud.
|Page name||Date created||Address||nnnnnnn Email||Phone Number||Category|
|Programming Natural (Deactivated)||26 January, 2023||62609, Харківська, с. Гнилиця, вул. Підпірна, 3||[email protected]||+380 63 834 9558||Information technology company|
|Marketing Funny (Deactivated)||2023||73486, Херсонська, смт Антонівка, вул. Чарівна, 31||[email protected]||+380 96 344 3887||Home & garden shop|
|Crazy World||14 June, 2023||Los Angeles, CA, United States, California||Does not indicate||Does not indicate||DJ · Actor · Musician/Band|
|Marketing Sanctuary||26 February, 2023||вул. Челюскінців, 13||[email protected]||+380 93 538 8928||Shopping service|
|Bautista||10 March, 2023||Does not indicate||Does not indicate||Does not indicate||Movie character|
|Coco Kaewchay||24 April, 2023||Does not indicate||Does not indicate||Does not indicate||Beauty, cosmetic & personal care|
|Cool Move (Deactivated)||2023||–||–||–||–|
|Note: Due to the quick deactivation of the Facebook page “Cool Move,” Myth Detector was unable to collect/archive screenshots of any page data other than its advertised content. “Myth Detector” also does not know the exact date of creation of the deactivated page “Marketing Funny.”|
As of October 18, three of the seven pages identified by “Myth Detector” have been deactivated, while four are still available.
About Programming Natural and Marketing Funny
The Facebook pages Programming Natural and Marketing Funny published photos in March 2023 showing a fire lit in front of a church, several dozen people nearby with colorful flags, the ruins of houses, and EU flags. It should be noted that the posts had identical descriptions. According to the description, these photos were generated by the artificial intelligence platform “Midjourney” after being asked to show what Georgia would look like in 2050 if the country became a member of the European Union. In April 2023, the Facebook page “Orthodox Page” presented the posts spread by these pages as a real story and claimed that the church in the photo was an Orthodox temple located abroad.
The Facebook page Programming Natural was created on January 26, 2023, and according to the information on the page, it is an information technology company. In addition, the address on the page is Ukraine, one of the villages of the Kharkiv region, the phone number also has a Ukrainian code, and the e-mail address under the name of Melanija Isaeva is Latvian.
In the Facebook ads library, one could find several posts sponsored by Programming Natural in April and March, which were directed against the European Union. Notably, these posts were hidden directly on the “timeline” of the page.
The Facebook page Programming Natural is no longer available but an identical post about the AI-generated photos was posted on a similar page – Marketing Funny. Like Programming Natural, Marketing Funny‘s address is also Ukraine, this time it is the Kherson region, and its phone number has a Ukrainian code. Marketing Funny is not available at this time either.
It should be noted that Marketing Funny also sponsored identical anti-EU posts, which stirred up Euroscepticism and aimed to convey the message that Georgia’s accession to the EU is unrealistic.
About Crazy World
Facebook accounts Crazy World (archive link) distributes materials with anti-Western and homophobic content. The page was created on June 14, 2023, is listed in the category Musician/Band, and shows Los Angeles, California as the address field. It should also be noted that the memes distributed by this page are not found on its personal page and in the photos section; however, by going to the Ads Library, we find that the page has published and sponsored memes with anti-Western and homophobic content. In the photos sponsored by the page, the emphasis is on how European countries do not consider Georgia worthy of EU membership and how the LGBTQI community is waiting for Georgia to join the EU so that they can hold a “gay parade” in Tbilisi.
About Marketing Sanctuary
Facebook page Marketing Sanctuary was created on February 26, 2023. The page is listed in the shopping service category. In addition, the address on the page is Ukraine, Chernivtsi district, and the phone number has a Ukrainian code (+380). It should be noted that the e-mail address ([email protected]) is indicated in the description section of the page.
One meme and a few posts can be found in the news feed of the Facebook page Marketing Sanctuary. According to the meme, Georgia’s future in the European Union involves tolerance to gays, transgenders, and the LGBTQI community. In other posts published on the page, one can find motivational phrases in Russian (Ты можешь времети — предела нет. Знай, ты можешь — будь утервен. Хватит пописток — просто бей!). Sponsored memes on the same page serve to incite skepticism toward joining the European Union. For example, the “small” benefit of joining the European Union and the “long list” that a country must fulfill in order to join it are ironically compared. The memes also mention that European countries do not consider Georgia worthy of joining the European Union and that the LGBT community will hold a “gay parade” in Tbilisi after the accession.
Two memes posted by Marketing Sanctuary in September are identical to Crazy World’s anti-European memes, which the site had been promoting in August.
Facebook page Bautista was created on March 10, 2023, and currently has 28 followers (archive). The page lists “movie character” in the category section. On the Facebook page, only profile and cover photo uploads can be found, although posts sponsored by Bautista can be found in the ads library. As with other pages, the content of Bautista’s memes is anti-Western and aims to incite skepticism about Georgia’s EU membership. Among them, one of the memes is aamplifying the message that the West is funding revolutions.
It should be noted that one of the videos sponsored by the page was published in September by a Facebook user (Vera-Tsitsino Kharabadze), a supporter of the “Georgian Dream”, on her personal Facebook account. In the animation, the cartoon character of former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili “reveals” his plans. The animation is dubbed in English, although it has Georgian subtitles, where we find spelling, morphological, and syntactical errors:
“Hello, I am Mishiko and let me tell you the plans of the near future. My old friends and I, who are now free, accepted an offer from our US and EU colleagues and have decided to start a second Revolution of Roses. In the nearest future, we will lauch a chain of events that will lead to the downfall of the current government. Have patience, my dear Salome, everything will soon change and we will visit our American masters just as before. Of course some people will suffer but Georgians are a strong nation. One more blow, they will survive it. They still believe in me!”.
On September 9, the Facebook page Bautista published information that a young Georgian woman who lived in Manchester, Great Britain, and a few days earlier had written about bullying at work because of her nationality, died of a “powerful substance.” In fact, the screenshot of an article published on behalf of the Manchester Evening News was fact-checked by Myth Detector and found it to be fake.
About Cool move
The Facebook page Cool move, which has since been deleted, published a post in which they also asked artificial intelligence what kind of news would be published in the Georgian mass media in 2050, after the country became part of the European community. As in the case of posts published by other pages, this post is also accompanied by photos of people holding colorful flags.
In the sponsored posts of the same Facebook page, we see memes, in which emphasis is placed on how Georgia is desperately waiting for EU membership and receives only a wave of empty promises from the West.
About Coco Kaewchay
Facebook page Coco Kaewchay (Archive 1; 2) was created on April 24, 2023. The page is listed in the Beauty, cosmetic & personal care category. Coco Kaewchay’s Timeline only features profile and cover photos, and sponsored posts that can be viewed in the Ad Library are not available on Coco Kaewchay’s Timeline.
Unlike other pages, at this stage, Coco Kaewchay does not sponsor memes, although its anti-Western content, categorization, and operation techniques are similar to the other six pages identified by Myth Detector.
Facebook page Coco Kaewchay has one ad in the ads library, but after searching for to the ad details, we learn that it has three versions.
The ads feature photos of Georgian, NATO, and European Union flags, as well as people gathered in front of the parliament, accompanied by the following texts:
- “To live as a puppet or to remain free?” its your decision! Vote!”;
- “Let’s not be a new colony that is being used! Let’s protect our freedom! vote!” ;
- “Vote for independent Georgia! Your vote can decide the fate of the country”.
If we go to the indicated link, we will see a signature column on the petition (archive) “On the Necessity of Exclusion of the Provisions of the of European Integration from the Constitution of Georgia” on Manifest.ge.
The petition mentions that the European Union’s request for Georgia to fulfill 12 conditions in order to receive candidate status in 2022 against the background of granting it to Moldova and Ukraine is an unfair decision that only increases political and social polarization in Georgian society and insults the dignity of every citizen of Georgia.
The petition on the exclusion of the provisions of the necessity of European integration from the Constitution of Georgia was registered on manifest.ge on October 6, 2023 by Anano Tsilosani. It should be noted that registration on manifest.ge is possible for a person with any name and surname, with any e-mail.
Mimes of Identical Visuals and Content Published by Different Pages
It should be noted that the three advertisements published by Programming Natural and Marketing Funny are visually and content identical to each other.
In addition, the memes sponsored by Crazy World and Marketing Sanctuary are identical to each other, conveying the idea that European countries do not consider Georgia worthy of membership in the European Union and that the LGBTQI community is waiting to hold a parade in Tbilisi after Georgia is accepted into the European Union.
What do we know about @kuromail.cc, which two of the pages indicate?
The .cc domain is the top-level domain zone of the Cocos Islands. It is open to the public and anyone can register a .cc domain. According to a 2021 study published by an Australian university, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands suffix is one of the most frequently used top-level domains used by Internet fraudsters. In addition, this domain is also used by people who post child abuse materials on the Internet. Because it is one of the cheapest domains for websites to purchase, the .CC suffix is one of the most commonly used top-level domains for distributing child abuse material, the study found. Also, in 2011, Google removed 1 million addresses from the .co.cc subdomain because of spam sites associated with it. According to the Global Phishing Report published in 2016, .cc was one of four top-level domains that accounted for 75% of malicious domain registrations.
When searching for kuromail.cc, the system takes us to the website https://mail.kuromail.cc/mail/, where, in addition to the username and password input field, there are links to platforms related to the page (YouTube, Telegram). By clicking on the link, we learn that kuromail.cc belongs to Усатый Арбитражник [Mustage Team.
[Канал] Усатый Арбитражник is a Ukrainian YouTube and Telegram channel that offers social network users to buy Facebook accounts/farms. These accounts can be used for a variety of purposes, including running social media ads. The channel offers users different packages, for example, the $8.99 package (archive) includes Facebook accounts with photos that will pass any “meta” check. In addition, the accounts come with 2 “fan pages” (photos, some posts, and information about the page) and 2 business managers, and in each business manager ad accounts are already created so that the user only needs to upload an ad when logging into the account.
The research showed that the identified Facebook pages that spread anti-Western messages are trying to influence public opinion. The use of memes in the production of influence campaigns is one of the methods used by malicious actors in other countries. For example, the use of meme techniques by the Russian “troll factory” in the 2016 US presidential elections is discussed in a report commissioned by the US Senate Intelligence Committee.
Due to the limited information published by the Facebook pages in the “About” section and the anonymity of the advertiser, it is impossible to determine whether this network is run by the same group, although the identical techniques and tactics used by these pages to influence public opinion, the same posts, and in two cases, the presence of similar e-mails raises doubts about their connected nature.