Russian information operation encourages political polarization in Georgia
On April 30, 2020 Facebook removed from its platform Kremlin’s propagandistic information agency News-Front’s pages in Georgian and other languages that they used in various countries. As part of its social media monitoring, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) was studying News-Front Georgia and Facebook accounts connected to it since November, 2019.
As a result of its analysis of open sources on Facebook, ISFED has concluded that News-Front Georgia (hereinafter, News-Front)operated on Facebook in gross violation of the platform’s regulations. In particular, Facebook page of News-Front Georgia and its administrator, together with inauthentic accounts, were disseminating targeted information in a selective manner, directed toward instigating antagonism and aggression among Georgian Facebook users, dividing the society and creating political polarization. News-Front and inauthentic accounts that acted in coordination with News Front were employing a range of tactics to spread anti-Western, pro-Russian messages and create inauthentic interaction in order to mislead Facebook audiences.
News-Front was active on Facebook for around 6 months. To disseminate its content News-Front used an organized network, mostly in the form of likely inauthentic, suspicious accounts. In addition to the official Facebook page of the publication and the personal account of its administrator, Konstantine Chikviladze, the network was comprised of 12 inauthentic accounts that carried out active information operations in Facebook groups in a targeted and organized manner, using inauthentic and coordinated behavior.
News-Front and inauthentic accounts that operated in favor of the agency intentionally and selectively shared News-Front’s posts in thematic groups and simulated comments, which, in addition to apparent aim of intentional polarization of the Georgian political environment was possibly also related to the upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections. News-Front and its associated inauthentic accounts were targeting openly pro-Russian groups as well as groups that support the Georgian Dream and its leaders, and the groups supporting the United National Movement. ISFED found that News-Front content was being spread in 31 open Facebook groups with total of 521,240 members.
Similar to the coordinated inauthentic actions of a Russian publication Sputnik-Georgia, the information operations of Russian news agency News-Front also relied on the use of Facebook groups with many members.