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Facebook Removes Hundreds of Georgia Govt Linked Pages for ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’

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Facebook, one of the most popular social media platforms, announced today about first ever Georgian takedown, that affected Georgian-government linked network on the platform.

“Today, we removed 39 Facebook accounts, 344 Pages, 13 Groups and 22 Instagram accounts as part of a domestic-focused network that originated in the country of Georgia,”  Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy of Facebook said on December 20..

“These Pages posed as news organizations and impersonated political parties, public figures, activist groups and media entities. The Page admins and account owners typically posted about domestic news and political issues such as elections, government policies, public officials, criticism of the opposition and local activist organizations,” Gleicher noted.

Facebook’s statement stressed that “although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation linked this activity to Panda, an advertising agency in Georgia, and the Georgian Dream-led government.”

The statement revealed that about 442,300 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 52,000 accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 2,100 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

We identified these accounts through our investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. Our investigation benefited from public reporting.

Speaking of finances people behind the mentioned accounts spent on advertising, Facebook noted that there was “less than $316,000 in spending for ads on Facebook and Instagram paid for in US dollars. That includes the entirety of advertising activity by both inauthentic and authentic accounts removed as part of this network engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” head of Facebook’s security policy stated, further adding that “we’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted.”

“In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” Nathaniel Gleicher said.

Gleicher also noted that Facebook is “making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge,” adding that “we’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working closer with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.”

Facebook statement includes some examples of the coordinated pages, like an impersonating media entity “FastNews.ge” below.

Translation [by Facebook]: “There will be University city in Kutaisi that will also host scientific and leisure centres – this will be state university” – says chairman of “Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia” Bidzina Ivanishvili in the interview regarding building international university in Kutaisi. Interview is shared by international university of Kutaisi. Ivanishvili says, that building university city is his long time dream…
Earlier in September, Civil Georgia (Civil.ge) wrote that its staff Facebook pages were not immune to divisive messages boosted by GD backing pages.

Particularly noticeable for Civil Georgia’s staff was PM-to-be Giorgi Gakharia’s parliamentary hearing period. As Gakharia met opposition’s European Georgia and United National Movement MPs in the parliament on September 6, promising the major opposition rival UNM to “finish them”, Facebook pages backing ruling party flooded Georgians’ Facebook walls by the ads with hateful, polarizing and dehumanizing messages that targeted political opponents, media and civil society.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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