Various

What Scheme was Used to Spread Conspiracy Theories about Pope Francis and Chips?

11 May, 2020

A conspiracy theory about Pope Francis allegedly calling on the parish to get chipped went viral on Georgian websites and Facebook pages on May 4-5. As of May 8, the conspiracy theory was spread by four websites and 14 Facebook pages. In addition, the fake news was shared by 11 Facebook groups. The conspiracy theory about Pope Francis and the chips was most frequently shared by three profiles. Seven out of 14 pages deleted the posts containing this information. IP addresses of Georgian clickbait websites are registered in various parts of the world, including in Moscow, Nuremberg and Texas. One of the Facebook pages was previously named Youth Legion of Nationalists.

According to Crowdtangle, the links of three websites had more than 20,000 interactions in social networks.

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The information as if Pope Francis called on the parish to get chipped is a conspiracy theory. Russian satirical edition panorama.pub, which publishes fabricated stories, is the primary source of information. The conspiracy theory about Pope Francis and the chips was just fabricated by panorama.pub, while Georgian clickbait sites and tabloids passed it off as real information. Panorama.pub is frequently used by Georgian online editions for spreading disinformation.

Who spread the conspiracy theory about Pope Francis and chips in Georgia?

The Russian satirical website published information about Pope Francis and the chips on April 28. On May 4, Georgian Idea and itar.ge published the information as real one; later on May 5, the same information was published by n.videosports.ge and arxi.ge. The links of these four websites went viral on Facebook pages and groups. Only one of four websites - Georgian Idea - is traditional media outlet. The remaining three websites are clickbait sites that usually spread sensational materials to earn economic profits. The form and content of advertisements posted on the websites prove it.

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  • About itar.ge

According to registrator.ge, itar.ge was created on October 27, 2018 and its IP address was registered in Texas.

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The website also has a Facebook page “იცით თუ არა რომ” (Did you know that), which was created earlier, in 2012 and Tengo Mamukashvili is its admin. According to Facebook, at this moment, the page has seven admins – six from Georgia and one from Germany.

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The page also indicates a YouTube channel, which makes it clear that the admin of “იცით თუ არა რომ” simultaneously runs a page and a group dainteresdit.ge. Fake news about Pope Francis and chips was also spread by these platforms. Tengiz Mamukashvili, admin of “იცით თუ არა რომ” and dainteresdit.ge, has two profiles. The profile using the name Tengo Mamukashvili refers to him as page admin, while the second profile using the name Tengiz Mamukashvili shares links in the groups. It was just Tengiz Mamukashvili’s profile that shared fake news about Pope Francis in the group Dainteresdit.ge on May 5.

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Itar.ge’s link involving information about Pope Francis was shared in three groups, among themSTOP 5G GEORGIA!!!, კორონავირუსი  covid-19 საინფორმაციო ცენტრი and ☑️ ავტომობილების ყიდვა-გაყიდვა, this latter, however, has deleted the post. The fake news about Pope Francis was spread in the groups STOP 5G GEORGIA!!!, კორონავირუსი  covid-19 საინფორმაციო ცენტრი by one and the same profile Gio Vashak. It means that this profile also has links with Itar.ge’s clickbait network and shares fake news in an organized manner in various groups in order to gain profits.

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  • About arxi.ge

According to registrator.ge, arxi.ge was created on April 22, 2020 and its IP address was registered in Bayern, Germany. The website is owned by Sabir Kiarimovi.

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A person with the same name and surname also owns another clickbait site: gadacema.ge about which the Myth Detector wrote in March 2020.

Arxi.ge’s link about Pope Francis headlined “The Pope called on people to get chipped – the reason is shocking” was also spread by the following pages: კრეატივი (Creative), Filmebi.qartulad.net, მთავარი გვერდი (Main Page), საინტერესო გვერდი (Interesting Page), ტროლები (Trolls) და lolo.ge. The fake news about Pope Francis had been available on the pages until being deleted in an organized manner on May 8.
 

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Monitoring of the links of other websites published on these pages has revealed that Sabir Kiarimovi runs at least two more clickbait sites – yvela.ge and shedevri.ge. IP addresses of all the four websites run by Kiarimovi were registered in Germany and visually they look identical.

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User Marina Moravia also shared arxi.ge’s link in the group Freshnews.ge, but presently the post is unavailable.
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  • About videosports.ge

Clickbait site videosports.ge was created on June 22, 2019 with an IP address registered in Moscow.
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Videosports.ge’s link about Pope Francis was spread in five groups: საჯარო ჯგუფი (Public Group), საქართველო (Georgia), მსოფლიო ფაქტები (World Facts),დედამიწის გარშემო (Around the Earth) and მსოფლიოს გარშემო (Around the World).

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An identical profile “აქ ყველაფერია” (Everything is Here) spread videosports.ge’s link in three groups. This scheme makes us think that the profile is associated with a clickbait site and that it spreads links containing fake news in various groups to gain economic benefits.

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  • Other pages and groups

Besides clickbait sites, Georgian Idea also spread fake news about Pope Francis and chips on May 4. The relevant link was shared on the edition’s Facebook pages “ქართული აზრი” (Georgian Idea) and “რეპორტიორი” (Reporter).
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The same fake news was also spread by another Facebook page “ახალგაზრდული”, which also shared the news in the group რუსთავი 21/Rustavi 21.
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Facebook page “ახალგაზრდული” was created on July 17, 2018 and it changed its name four times. Presently, the page has four admins – three from Georgia and one from Sweden. It is worth noting that the page was initially named “ნაციონისტი” (Nationist), than “ნაციონალისტები ახალგაზრდული ლეგიონი” (Nationalist Youth Legion).

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The page “Ekumenizm Religia Antixrista” (Ecumenism – Religion of the Antichrist) also spread a conspiracy theory about Pope Francis and chips in a form of a video. The video was posted on May 2 with a headline “The Pope has called on the parish not to be afraid of chipping.” The video is accompanied by the text with Russian edition panorama.pub referred to as the source. Moreover, the page refers to YouTube channel АПОКАЛИПСИС СЕГОДНЯ 8 as the source of the video.

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YouTube channel АПОКАЛИПСИС СЕГОДНЯ 8  was created on February 4, 2020 and it unites more than 200 videos, covering a broad range of issues, among others “Eagle” and “Bear” (USA/Russia), COVID-19 conspiracy theories, 5G anti-campaign, “sacral” number 666, theory of cataclysms, homophobia, as well as conspiracy theories about coming of the Masons and the Antichrist. The page also appears on two more YouTube channels: the first page: АПОКАЛИПСИС СЕГОДНЯ 7.  was created on November 4, 2019 and it spreads identical video content, while the second page Человек и Лев was created on February 12, 2020 and unlike the first two pages, it tells about lion’s life. In its “About us” section,  АПОКАЛИПСИС СЕГОДНЯ- 8 notes that they created the second channel for animal lovers. But it is obvious that it offers conspiracy videos. Russia is indicated as the place of creation and operation of all three YouTube channels.

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Passing off satirical-humorous fake news as real stories

Georgian online platforms have misled the readers by not indicating that the information about Pope Francis and chips has been fabricated and that Russian satirical edition panorama.pub has been the primary source, especially as the latter notes in its “About us” section that it is a satirical edition.

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The IP address of panorama.pub was registered in Texas

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Passing off satirical-humorous news as real stories is one of the propaganda methods. A number of online media outlets or Facebook pages are frequently referring to panorama.pub as their source, passing off fabricated news as real. See the materials, where panorama.pub was referred to as the source and which were later verified by the Myth Detector:


The material was prepared using CrowdTangle’s analytics tools.


Prepared by Sopo Gelava and Tamar Chkhikvadze
Myth Detector Lab

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