Fake accounts of Russian news outlet involved in supporting state agencies
On May 1, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) published its report on organized information operations by Kremlist news agency News-Front in the Georgian Facebook space. Facebook removed the global inauthentic network of News-Front from its platform on April 30. Along with the official News-Front Facebook page in Georgia, profiles of 12 inauthentic accounts and administrator of the News-Front page have also been removed. Since News-Front started operating in Georgia, this network of accounts was used for organized scheme of information dissemination and simulating engagement.
ISFED discovered that the inauthentic accounts closely linked to dissemination of News-Front content, in the past, have carried out organized information operations in support of the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Pension Agency and Badagoni Company.
Coordinated inauthentic network of News-Front has a history of manipulative information operations on Facebook. The coordinated inauthentic behavior of the network manifested during the 2018 presidential elections, engaging on 12 false media pages that acted in close coordination. These pages were used to wage information attacks on observer organizations, while the CEC was portrayed only in a positive light. This information operation was carried out mostly using opinions of pro-governmental experts Gia Abashidze and Zaal Anjaparidze.
Since April 2019, the inauthentic and large-scale activities of the network that disseminated News-Front were evident on the Facebook page of the Pension Agency. These accounts engaged in artificial interaction in the comments section of nearly all posts published on the official Facebook page of the Pension Agency with Facebook users, who were asking sincere questions or criticizing the pension reform. In addition to being active on the official page of the Agency, they were intensively spreading calls in support of the accumulative pension reform, including by engaging and amplifying conversations in Facebook groups with thousands of members.
ISFED investigation indicates that activities of the coordinated network of News-Front during the 2018 elections and its large-scale inauthentic social interaction in support of the Pension Agency is openly connected to the Head of the Pension Agency’s PR Department, Magda Kotrikadze, who is in turn connected to the 12 false media pages. Magda Kotrikadze’s Facebook activity suggests that she is friends with the pro-governmental experts promoted on these pages, Gia Abashidze and Zaal Anjaparidze.
Magda Kotrikadze’s name is also associated with the International Center for Democratic Initiatives (ICDI), the organization that has been funded by the CEC’s Electoral Systems’ Development, Reforms and Training Center six times since 2017. Activities of ICDI were also actively promoted by the 12 false media pages in this inauthentic network.
Traces of the administrator of News-Front’s Facebook page, Konstantine Chikviladze are also evident on these coordinated false media pages and the close ties of the inauthentic accounts with Chikviladze have been confirmed by ISFED. Notably, in 2013-2018, this network of 12 inauthentic personal accounts was involved in the operation for coordinated dissemination of contents of “geworld.ge”, another pro-Russian publication, while also disseminating posts of Konstantine Chikviladze.
News-Front Georgia is part of the network of a Kremlist news agency, News-front. Its official website lists Simferopol, Crimea in the contact information and indicates it as a territory of the Russian Federation. The agency incorporates publications in English, Bulgarian, German, Spanish, Serbian, Hungarian and Georgian languages. News-Front was founded under the June 26, 2015 Order of the Communications Regulation Agency of the Russian Federation, Roskomnadzor.