Politics

Trolls – hiding behind identities of “Катя Родина” and “Мария Волкова” – rebuke American democracy

24 February, 2021

On February 17, based on a decision of Tbilisi City Court, the bail for a leader of the United National Movement (UNM), Nika Melia, was replaced with imprisonment. Melia was arrested on February 23 in the office of the opposition. The arrest of one of the leaders of the opposition was followed by protest and harsh statements by international partners. In parallel, anti-opposition pages and pro-governmental trolls became more active on social media – who, on the one hand, considered the government’s decision as an expression of the rule of law, and, on the other hand, were discrediting the United National Movement. In addition, the fake accounts tried to sow distrust towards Georgia’s Western partners and were showcasing them as executioners of the UNM’s orders. As for anti-opposition Facebook pages, they were mainly working in a coordinated fashion and were publishing posts with identical content and visuals.

Myth Detector exposed 41 trolls:

  • Two categories of trolls have been exposed: those who steal other people’s identities (11 trolls) and trolls who hide their identity (30 trolls);
  • Some pro-governmental trolls disseminated messages in support of the government. The second group of trolls tried to discredit the opposition by remembering the past events. The third group accused the West of having double standards and accused it of interfering in the domestic affairs of Georgia;
  • Trolls made offensive comments towards the opposition and the Western partners and labelled ambassadors as working in the interests of the UNM;
  • Sixteen out of 41 trolls like governmental pages, pro-governmental news agencies, and pages that aim to discredit the opposition;
  • Seven out of 41 trolls indicate different names in the URL and profile, indicating their possibly real or another identity;
  • Five out of 41 trolls left identical comments several times on different posts;
  • Four out of 41 trolls have been involved in pro-government and anti-oppositional campaigns earlier as well.

Identical posts have been disseminated by pages that aim to discredit the opposition

Pages that aim to discredit the opposition have been exposed – Political Sarcasm, “რეალობა” (Reality), “მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი” (Mikheil Ukrainologue), “სექტაა” (Sect), “ტერენტი გლდანელი” (Terenti Gldaneli). They were disseminating identical posts about the arrest of Nika Melia between 17:01 and 17:36 with small intervals.

  • Trolls against the US

Governmental trolls and anti-oppositional pages actively engaged in the discreditation campaign targeting the West. Their messages often targeted the US – they recalled the storming of the US Capitol, were comparing it to the storming of the Parliament of Georgia and hinted at double standards. They also emphasized that the US does not have moral right to speak of democracy. Messages disseminated by trolls and anti-opposition Facebook pages in social media match the messages by governmental experts – something that Myth Detector has already written about.

Anti-oppositional Facebook page სექტა: “US Embassy Tbilisi, Georgia should rather take care of themselves instead of protecting Melia – you were carrying dead people from US Capitol”.

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Administrator of a pro-government Facebook page “ლიდერი 41”, Davit Tordia was sharing pictures of storming the US Capitol with a caption: “Ambassadors did not express concern when the US Capitol was stormed…”.
This was followed by trolls’ comments:

Nino Nebieridze, with an identity stolen from “Катя Родина”: “God, what are they even talking about? Did not they kill people in US Capitol? Are not they killing black people? They are wise in a war which is not theirs, these wannabee democrats 😊 They can let Nika Melia roam large in their own country.”

Ani Makalatia, with an identity stolen from “Мария Волкова”: “It is such a shame that America talks to us about democracy. We do not have a short memory like you do – we remember the US Capitol events.”

A pro-Russian troll Daat Tsabadze created a Russia-US dichotomy. He cynically wrote that storming the office of an oppositional party and arresting a participant of the storming of the Parliament is, as it turns out, a Russian method, while the storming of the US Capitol by the people who have different opinions and shooting five of them – an example of American democracy. Later, the fake account deleted this post.

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  • Trolls against a Lithuanian MP and the Ambassador of the EU

Facebook accounts, including trolls, were reacting to the visit of the Head of Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Lithuania, Žygimantas Pavilionis, and his call towards de-escalation with discrediting comments – something that also became evident in messages by supporters of the government and the government itself, too, as they all accused the Lithuanian MP of having ties with the UNM and working in their interests.

„სექტა“: “[Žygimantas Pavilionis] met Miha [Saakashvili] in Istanbul, received directives, arrived in Georgia and started supporting the UNM” (profanity in original)

 

Trolls also posted offensive comments after a critical statement, made by the Ambassador of the EU to Georgia about the arrest of the opposition leader:

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  • Trolls were reminding the UNM the nine years they spent in the government and considered the arrest of Nika Melia as a restoration of justice:
 
  • Identical posts have been disseminated by pages that aim to discredit the opposition

Myth Detector also observed Facebook pages that aim to discredit the opposition that were publishing identical posts from various pages with small time intervals.

Identical posts about the discreditation of the number of protest participants were published on five different pages between 17:01 and 17:36 – Political Sarcasm, “რეალობა” (Reality), “მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი” (Mikheil Ukrainologue), “სექტაა” (Sect), “ტერენტი გლდანელი” (Terenti Gldaneli).

 

Same pages were publishing the collage of videos of Nika Melia’s arrest and his statements with intervals of several minutes. 

 

An anti-opposition page („ალტერნატიული სარკაზმი“/Alternative sarcasm), a troll (Ertaoza Qartvelishvili), as well as anti-liberal Facebook accounts („კარდჰუ“/Kardhu, „ბაკურ სვანიძე“/Bakur Svanidze, „კონსერვატიული პლატფორმა“/Conservative platform) sarcastically compared the storming of the UNM office to seizing the Alamut Castle, a historical castle of Assassins. This parallel also appeared in a pro-Kremlin media outlet News-Front through Bakur Svanidze’s personal Facebook account.

 

Facebook pages that aim to discredit the opposition periodically showed visual manipulations mocking Nika Melia.

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Trolls that are stealing other people’s identities

1.Beqa Beqauri
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Stealing the identity of a Ukrainian actor, Alexander Korzhov, likes the page “სექტა

2. Anano Dvalishvili
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Using profile pictures of other internet users

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  3. Николь Николь
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Using Nicole Sherzinger’s photo, commented on the statement by the US Embassy

4. Beqa Maxviladze
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Stealing the identity of Rezi Bestavashvili, a user of a dating website, likes pro-government and anti-opposition pages
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5. Giorgi Beria
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Using Nicole Sherzinger’s photo, commented on the statement by the US Embassy

6. Marisha Marisha

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Uses a photo used by many other social media users. Likes pro-Georgian Dream and Shalva Ramishvili-associated pages
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7.Vato Vato
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Profile URL indicates gela.gelashvili. Uses Al Pacino’s photo as a profile picture

8. დავით ფოტოგრაფი
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Stealing the identity of Davit Chutlashvili, another social media user. Profile URL indicates ane.moos.


ტროლები, რომლებსაც პროფილის ბმულში შეცვლილი დასახელება აქვთ მითითებული

1. ნიკიტა ნიკიტა
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Profile URL indicates marina.rezo. Has four friends.

2. Levan Samxarauli
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Unidentifiable on the profile picture. Profile URL indicates mar.mari.

3. Georgia Georgia
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Does not upload personal photos, shares pro-government and anti-opposition posts. Profile URL indicates giorgi.papunashvili.

4. chester chester
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Profile URL indicates beso.dvali. Newly created account.
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5. John Wick
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Hidesidentity. Profile URL indicates luka.maisuradze. Likes POSTV, POSTV - გართობა (POSTV - Entertainment)


ტროლები, რომლებიც იდენტობას მალავენ

1.Koba Koba
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Hides identity. Likes pages supporting Georgian Dream.

2. ნიკა გამყრელიძე
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Profile was created in November 2019. Started publishing posts in November 2020 (protest rally due to Parliamentary elections took place on November 8). Shares anti-oppositional posts, likes pages that support Georgian Dream.

3. მარტოდ მარტო
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Hides identity. Has one friend. Likes POSTV - ანალიტიკა (POSTV - analytics), POSTV - გართობა (POSTV - entertainment)


 

4. Tato Dadiani
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Does not upload personal photos, likes Shalva Ramishvili’s, POSTV, pro-government and anti-opposition pages.

5. Smako Smako
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Hides identity

6. Bokvera Bokvera
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Newly created profile, does not upload identifying information

7. Babi Kaxa
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Does not upload identifying information, likes pages that support Georgian Dream

8. Lasha Gogicha
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Does not upload photos, likes the following pages: “გარემოს დაცვისა და სოფლის მეურნეობის სამინისტრო” (Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture), “Первый канал” (Channel One), “News and media website”, “ნაცების დასაცინი ოფიციალური სააგენტო” (Official agency for making fun of UNM supporters), ”მიხეილ უკრაინოლოგი” (Mikheil Ukrainologue), “გარემოსდაცვითი ზედამხედველობის დეპარტამენტი” (Department of Environmental Supervision).



 

9. Goga Beraya
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Hides identity, likes pages that support Georgian Dream

10. Gela Mgeladze
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Does not upload identifying information, likes anti-opposition pages, “ქართული ოცნება • გლდანი” (Georgian Dream • Gldani), ”ბაჩო და გური • Bacho & Guri” , “POSTV - ახალი ამბები” (POSTV - News)

11. Data Khizanishvili
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Hides identity, likes pages that support Georgian Dream

12. Bike Bike
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Hides identity, has 17 friends

13. Giorgi Iarajuli
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Hides identity, has three friends, likes news outlets and Kakha Kaladze კახა კალაძე

14. ლია ლია
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Does not upload identifying information, shares posts aiming at discrediting the opposition

15. ლია
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Hides identity, has 56+ friends

16. Maia Gurulo Guria
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Does not upload identifying information, likes the following pages:

POSTV - ანალიტიკა, ალექსანდრე სარიშვილი ლანჩხუთის მერი/Aleksandre Sarishvili, ლანჩხუთის ახალგაზრდული საკრებულო, ალექსანდრე სარიშვილი ლანჩხუთის მერი / Aleksandre Sarishvili

17. აბი გლუკოზა
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Does not upload identifying information, commented on Carl Hartzell’s statement about the deepening political crisis

18. Hattori Hanzo
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Does not upload identifying information, commented on Carl Hartzell’s statement about the deepening political crisis

19. გიო ლობღანიძე
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Hiding identity, newly created profile, commented on several posts

20. Irakli Irakli
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Hiding identity, not active on their own news feed

21. გიო გიო
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Does not upload identifying photos, not active on their own news feed

22.გიო გიო

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Does not upload identifying photos, has 17 friends

23. Mate Mate
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Hiding identity, not active on their own news feed

24. Borman Borman
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Hiding identity, not active on their own news feed

Old pro-government trolls, exposed by the Media Development Fund in November 2020, were also engaged in the pro-government and anti-opposition campaign as well.

1.Irma Lekiashvili
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Stealing the identity of Svetlana, an OK user. Irma Lekiashvili’s profile picture is a photo used by another pro-government troll Mariam Svanidze, exposed by MDF in its 2019 report. Participated in the discreditation campaign of the November 2020 electoral protest.
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2. Ertaoza Qartvelishvili

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Involved in November 2020 electoral process discreditation campaign, likes pages that support Georgian Dream.

3. Nino Nebieridze
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Stealing the identity of Катя Родина, a VK user. Involved in November 2020 electoral protest discreditation campaign.

4. Ani Makalatia
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Involved in November 2020 electoral protest discreditation campaign and was stealing the identity of a VK user Madina Ramazanova. This time, stealing the identity of another VK user – “Мария Волкова” (Maria Volkova). Likes pro-government pages.

 


By Ani Kistauri and Mariam Dangadze