Sponsored Posts and Anti-Liberal Messages – Actors and Tactics Behind the Discreditation Campaign Against June 20 Demonstration

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On June 20, 2022, three years after the infamous “Gavrilov Night”, hundred of thousands of Georgians gathered at Rustaveli Ave to once again stress the commitment of the Georgian people to the “Western values.” Organized by the ‘Shame Movement, the rally named “Home to Europe’ aimed at showing the European aspirations of the Georgian people to the European Union.

Notably, the campaign aimed at discrediting the rally on the social network started a few days earlier and involved both pro-governmental and anti-opposition Facebook pages, groups and the media, as well as anti-liberal, pro-Kremlin pages and individual accounts. These actors tried to discredit the rally organized by the civil movement “Shame” by linking the organizers to the “National Movement” and the LGBTQ + community, at the same time claiming that “pro-Russian forces” were behind the rally. In addition, pro-governmental media and Facebook pages showed footage taken before the rally to claim that the rally lacked support. It should be noted that, in some cases, the messages and photo-video materials disseminated by the pro-governmental and pro-Kremlin actors had identical content.

The following messages have been identified during the monitoring conducted by the “Myth Detector”:

  • The June 20 rally has pro-Russian organizers that are linked to the “United National Movement”;
  • Banners in support of Saakashvili are placed at the rally;
  • People oppose the rally sponsored by the Russian special services and the United National Movement;
  • The “Shame Movement” is funded by Rurua and Okriashvili;
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community have joined the June 20 rally and plan to turn it into pride.

“Myth Detector” has identified 19 Facebook pages involved in the discrediting campaign, of which 11 are anti-liberal, and 8 are pro-governmental and discredit the opposition. The posts by 3 pro-government Facebook pages (Political Satire, Political Absurdity, Archive) and media (POSTV – Analytics) were sponsored.

The June 20 rally has pro-Russian organizers that are linked to the “United National Movement”

Pro-governmental and anti-opposition Facebook pages (Terenti Gldaneli, Political Absurdity) published a video collage to discredit the protesters and organizers, emphasising their “pro-Russianness.” Notably, the identical video was featured in the pro-Kremlin media TV Sezoni’s story as well.

In order to discredit the rally, Facebook pages (Ar Agarevinebt, Political Absurdity, Mishing) have disseminated a video collage, highlighting the “pro-Russianness” of the rally organizers and supporters, their connection to the “United National Movement” and LGBTQ+ organizations. In addition, the Facebook page Political Satire wrote that the “Shame Movement” is the youth wing of the UNM.

Notably, the scene at 0:28 of the video collage published by the Facebook pages “Mishing”, “Ar agarevinebt” and “Political Absurdity” is altered. The photo was taken in 2019 by LGBTQ+ activists during a protest rally in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with a civil activist holding a placard reading “No to Transphobia”. In the altered photo, this banner is replaced by a photo of Mikheil Saakashvili, featuring the inscription “Free Misha”.

A similar video was also disseminated by the Facebook pages supportive of the Conservative Movement party, namely Conservative Women and an individual profile called conservative movement. The video is made up of photos of the organizers and supporters of the June 20 rally, including Tbilisi Pride, as well as opposition politicians, and ends with a shot of the united flag of the EU and LGBTQ+ community.

Banners in support of Saakashvili are placed at the rally organized by the “Shame Movement”

Pro-governmental media (TV Imedi, POSTV – Analytics) and Facebook pages (Terenti Gldaneli (link 1, 2), Ar Agarevinebt, Mishing (link 1, 2), Political Satire) wrote a few hours before the rally that ” Mikheil Saakashvili’s banner was displayed at the rally organized by the “Shame Movement”. The information gave the impression to the readers that the rally was organized by the “United National Movement” and the demand for the rally was the release of the former president.

Identical information and a related photo were published on the support pages of the Conservative Movement, by the anti-liberal group History of Georgia and by the individual account Irakli Irakli, the author of the pro-Kremlin publications Tvalsazrisi.ge and infoanalytical.ge.

Fake accounts were disseminating similar information as well. Namely, a post published by a fake report showed a banner that insulted people that did not support Saakashvili. The post claimed that such banners were frequent and that Saakashvili’s release was the primary demand of the rally. It should be noted that the photo was taken in front of the Parliament, although none of the protesters can be seen in the background.

Later on, the post of Mariam Beridze was published by the anti-opposition Facebook account Terenti Gldaneli and the Facebook page Mikheil Ukrainologist, as well as by support pages of the Conservative movement, emphasizing the connection of the UNM with the rally.

Dato Okitashvili, chairman of the Georgian Chamber of Culture, attached the mentioned photo to his post. later replacing it with a photo of Mikheil Saakashvili taken before the rally, although his post was published by Alia and Spacesnews on their websites with photos of both banners.

 

Notably, the fake Facebook account Mariam Beridze, which lists the United National Movement as its workplace, in April 2022, in order to discredit Saakashvili and the National Movement, published a fake post urging supporters to sell their kidneys to save the former president. Read more in the “Myth Detector” article:

People oppose the rally sponsored by the Russian special services and the United National Movement

Part of the pro-governmental media (MarshallPress, POSTV – News), as well as anti-opposition Facebook accounts (Terenti Gldaneli, Political Absurdity) reported that the city of  Kutaisi rejected the rally sponsored by the “Russian special services” and the “National Movement”  and the people did not gather.


In order to illustrate the lack of people at the rally, the pro-governmental media outlet POSTV-Analytics and the pro-governmental page Mikheil Ukrainologist published footage taken minutes before the rally, giving the impression that few people had gathered for the June 20 rally. At the beginning of the rally, the TV Imedi program, based on the data of the National Statistics Office, was reporting on the increase in the GDP and at the same time, aired footage of the rally.

In parallel, POSTV-Analytics has been spreading the video with the following description: “Part of the TSU students left the rally because it is a political rally and they do not want to take part in the ‘Nazi’ rally.”

The “Shame Movement” is funded by Giorgi Rurua and Kakha Okriashvili;

Anti-opposition and pro-government Facebook pages (Mishing, Political Absurdity, and Archive) have been publishing videos aimed at highlighting the links between “Shame” and Giorgi Rurua and Kakha Okriashvili, claiming that they were sponsors of the rally.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community have joined the June 20 rally and plan to turn it into pride

In order to emphasize the connection of the rally with the LGBTQ+ community, pro-governmental media POSTV-analytics published a screenshot of an allegedly fake Facebook profile named Guga Aserti and sponsored it. The comment notes that there will be LGBT flags at the rally, which will turn into a gay pride. The sponsored post of POSTV states that representatives of the LGBT community will also join the June 20 rally.

The screenshot was also shared by the anti-opposition Facebook account Terenti Gldaneli and in the Facebook groups: პროტესტი! Protest! Протест! and Citizen. In addition, posts with similar content were published by the page Conservative Women and the anti-liberal group History of Georgia.

As of June 22, the Facebook profile Gugu Aserti no longer exists. The account was newly created and featured only the profile and cover photos and no personal information.

In parallel, the Facebook page Political Satire and the account Terenti Gldaneli wrote that it was fashionable to go to rallies these days and that participants were of “unidentified breeds.”

An identical video with the caption “Next Generation Towards Europe” was posted by the Facebook page Sarkrazmelebi, and a profile ‘Fighter for the Homeland” with the description- “Beware, they are coming!”.

In addition, several Facebook pages and accounts have circulated a video collage to humiliate the participants of the rally.

Members and supporters of the Conservative Movement and Alt-Info were actively disseminating a photo of Lado Mkheidze taken at the rally, an artist by profession, in which he is wearing a dress and his face is painted in the colours of the EU flag.

The photo was published by Shota Martinenko, one of the leaders of the Conservative Movement, as well as Jarji Nonashvili, a member of the party. Martinenko wrote that this participant of yesterday’s rally is the “mental face of European Georgia”, while Nonashvili calls the citizens who came to the rally gay activists.

In addition, the photo was published by the Facebook page Sarkrazmelebi, in the Facebook group Georgians for Georgia🇬🇪❤ and History of Georgia and by individuals supporting the Conservative Movement (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

The photo was also disseminated on three Facebook pages of Irakli Jankarashvili: Supporters of Alliance of Patriots, Resident, Global Politics.

The organizations “Zneoba” and “Georgian Idea” also tried to discredit the rally by connecting it with the LGBTQ+ community and stir up homophobic incentives. Davit Lortkipanidze, a member of “Zneoba“, labelled the movement organizing the rally as ‘sodomite’.

Davit Lortkipanidze: “What should I say if a man goes on a call of the dirty Sodomite “Shame Movement?”

Georgian Idea wrote on its Facebook page that, unlike the rally organizers, the “homophobic lifestyle” is unacceptable for most people who came to Rustaveli.

Georgian Idea: “Unlike the organizers, it is unacceptable for most people to come to Rustaveli to live a paternalistic life.

Discrediting the participants of the rally

In order to discredit the speakers at the rally, the Facebook pages Leader 41, Ar Agarevinebt, Mishring, Terenti Gldaneli (link 1, 2, 3), and Mikheil Ukrainologist (link 1, 2) posted videos of the rally with insulting comments.

Notably, identical posts were also published by the host of the TV Sezoni, Nikoloz Mzhavanadze (1, 2). Mzhavanadze wrote that “former and hidden Nazis” were standing at the rally.

Supporters of the Conservative Movement and Alt-Info were also actively distributing the discrediting posts of the protesters. Facebook page “Sarkrazmelebi”, Conservative Movement supporter profiles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and profiles created on behalf of regional offices (1) have posted videos of students to ridicule and discredit them, in particular, the authors of the post made fun of the speaking voices of the speakers.

Party meeting of the “Conservative Movement” during the rally

On June 20, Conservative Movement and Alt-Info expressed their readiness to storm the rally, in case those gathered in front of the parliament touched the cross erected by them during the violent rally on July 5, 2021.

Georgian Idea – qartuliidea.ge” and Alexander Palavandishvili also wrote about the possibility of turning the rally into a “gay parade”, noting that in such case “gay activists” would receive a harsh response.

At the end of the day, members of the Conservative movement even mobilized, a video of which was published on his profile by Shota Martinenko, noting that the reason for the party gathering was readiness for “some European-minded people to try to use force against national interests.”

Konstantine Morgoshia, the founder of Alt-Info, published a post on his Facebook page after the rally, stating that no one had touched the cross, so there was no need for the Conservative movement to attend the rally. He also noted that the protesters will try to activate the “Maidan version” on June 24.

Konstantine Morgoshia: “On the 24th, these political prostitutes will start activating the version called Maidan… then only 2-3,000 people will remain … because everyone will understand that this action is framed and has nothing to do with the European way.”

Sponsored Discreditation Campaign

Posts published to discredit protesters were, in many cases, sponsored. POSTV-Analytics sponsored 10 posts related to the June 20 rally, most of which were only sponsored on the day of the rally, June 20, and paid less than USD 100 for each.

As for the anti-opposition pages, on June 20th, the pages Political Absurd and Political Satire sponsored 4-4 Facebook posts. Facebook page Mishing sponsored 3, and Archive – 2.

Information about the presence of the “Freedom to Misha” banner at the rally was sponsored by the pro-governmental media outlet POSTV – Analytics and the anti-opposition page Political Satire.



Facebook posts of Political Satire, Political Absurdity and Archive emphasizing the pro-Russianness and the affiliation with the UNM of the rally organizers were also sponsored. Ramaz Beridze is mentioned as a payer in the posts sponsored by “Political Absurdity”.

Posts to highlight the lack of people at the rally were also sponsored by Political Absurdity and POSTV – Analytics.



The post of POSTV-Analytics, stating that members of the LGBTQ+ community were planning to join the rally was also sponsored, so was the Facebook post of Political Satire stating that it was fashionable for Georgian “pseudo-liberals” to go to rallies.



Cover Photo © Mzia Saganelidze / RFE/RL, Tbilisi, June 20, 2022

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zneoba.ge
zneoba.ge

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Alt-Info
Alt-Info

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POS TV
POS TV

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Morgoshia Konstantine
Morgoshia Konstantine

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Georgian Idea
Georgian Idea

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Mzhavanadze Nikoloz
Mzhavanadze Nikoloz
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