On March 23, abcnews.com.ge published a news article titled “Unprecedented Decision: Bidzina Ivanishvili Allocated GEL 500 million for Healthcare”. The article positively assesses the measures taken by the Government of Georgia and the respective state institutions against coronavirus, followed by a list of investments made by Cartu Foundation in healthcare.
In the context of the coronavirus spread and funds, allocated to fight it, the title creates a perception that Bidzina Ivanishvili allocated GEL 500 million now, in order to fight coronavirus, however, the text actually reviews the investments made by Cartu Foundation in the Georgian healthcare for the past 20 years.
The website abcnews.com.ge is a hybrid of a clickbait and a covert website. On the one hand, clickbait websites intentionally publish misleading, attention-grabbing titles to earn money by increasing the number of clicks. On the other hand, the given website resorts to cloning and uses the name of a famous American edition abcnews to mislead readers.
The owner of abcnews.com.ge is Giorgi Melikidze, who is also associated with clickbait and fake news websites timesnews.ge and newpost.com.ge that have stopped working.
According to Crowdtangle data, the abcnews.com.ge article had more than 40 thousand interactions as of March 25 and had been disseminated in groups such as “კახა კალაძე თბილისის მერი” (“Kakha Kaladze The Mayor of Tbilisi”), “დავასრულოთ ნაცები” (“Let’s End the UNM and its Supporters”), “diaspora.ge”, “გავუზიაროთ ერთმანეთს ცოდნა” (“Let’s Share Knowledge with Each Other”) etc.
The following Facebook accounts – Ani Chonashvili and Ia Gerliani – have been sharing this post in various groups most often.
Abcnews.com.ge is a clickbait website and according to registrator.ge data, it was created on March 20, 2020. An individual entrepreneur, Giorgi Meliqidze (or Melikidze) owns the website. As of March 25, a total of nine articles had been published on the website.
Searching the e-mail revealed that Melikidze also owns the website newpost.com.ge that was registered on April 12, 2019 and is not working at the moment. Newpost.com.ge featured in Myth Detector articles in 2019 as a website that spreads fake information.
Melikidze also features as a partner in a company called “W-O-M” that is the legal name of timesnews.ge. According to the public registry data, the given organization was founded by Koba Vasadze on April 7, 2015. As of December 2016, Koba Vasadze owned 90% of shares of the organization, while Irakli Tinashvili owned 10%. According to changes made on December 13, 2016, Koba Vasadze handed over his 40% to Giorgi Melikidze free of charge.
TVM News indicates in “About Us” section that the website appeared on the Internet market in 2013. The Admin-Editor is Tamta Dadesheli, while the Editor of Political and Public Blog is Giorgi Prangishvili. The website has been publishing articles from an anti-Western and pro-Russian edition “Georgia and the World”.