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Politicians Comment on Facebook’s Removal of Georgian Govt Linked Pages

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Facebook’s decision to remove the pages affiliated with the Georgian government for their “coordinated inauthentic behavior” triggered mixed reactions in Georgia.

Civil.ge offers a compilation of these assessments.

On December 20, Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Security Policy of Facebook announced of removing 39 Facebook accounts, 344 Pages, 13 Groups and 22 Instagram accounts as part of a domestic-focused network that originated in Georgia.

He said, 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.

Ruling party assessments

Archil Talakvadze, Parliament Speaker: “It is not an exclusive case for Georgia. Facebook has such reactions constantly and it happens throughout the world, including in the United States. It was said that these subjects were spreading reports in support of the government. Facebook is an open space and everyone has seen that it contains a lot of information, disinformation against the government, as well as reports supporting the government. I do not rule out that those subjects, who are spreading disinformation against the government are spending much more money on it. The main trolls are still remaining in our country and these trolls are walking in Tbilisi, addressing the rallies and participating in TV programs [referring to the opposition].”

Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the parliamentary majority: “The Georgian Dream party and its leadership has nothing to do with the group Facebook referred to. Besides Georgia, Facebook also removed unauthentic accounts of the United States and Vietnam. We are ready to start working on regulations to prevent disinformation. Although it is not difficult for leisured people to report and delete unauthentic accounts, the Natsis [referring to the opposition United National Movement, that in Georgia sounds as “nazis’‘ – Civil.ge note], their bots and trolls are celebrating that Georgian Dream’s bots and trolls were removed. In fact, unlike the National Movement and its satellites, Georgian Dream is not supported by bots and virtual people, but rather by real people who can never be defeated or deleted.”

Kakha Kaladze, Georgian Dream’s secretary general/Tbilisi Mayor: “We have nothing to do with these accounts and I do not actually know what accounts you are talking about… Generally, we know, who the main ideologists of fake news are and their name is the [United] National Movement. Of course, if regulating this [issue] is possible, the best examples of [relevant changes] implemented in European countries can be introduced here too.”

Tea Tsulukiani, Justice Minister/Deputy Prime Minister: “I have been a victim of such trolls on Facebook. It is good that Facebook is working on it… facebook will have to work in this regard in the future not only in Georgia but elsewhere too, like in the U.S. as we have seen it… I have no information about fake news and trolls… As the Parliament Speaker [Talakvadze] said today , the main trolls are remaining in the streets, trying to sell you a lie. You’d better cover this issue and talk about it.”

Davit Zalkaliani, Foreign Minister: “I am sure that those official websites through which the government is communicating with the public are truly official websites. Neither the government, nor the ruling party have any fake account. Reputational problems are not new for Facebook. We remember that quite recently Facebook had to answer the questions of the members of the U.S. Congress… the so called fake news were used to bully and blackmail the government. [If you remove the Facebook pages/accounts], you need to be objective: not a single account that used to spread fake news against the government had been deleted [by Facebook]. The government has voiced its initiative for multiple times to fight against this problem at a legislative level and we expressed our readiness for our political opponents to be involved in this process.”

Opposition’s assessments

Zaal Udumashvili, National Movement: “Investigation about pages [of Facebook with inauthentic coordinated behavior] would have been launched immediately in any democratic country. It is the gravest crime, when [the government] is artificially trying to incite a strife in the public, as well as to incite an anti-Western campaign… Another issue is where these troll factories were being financed from. The money spent on advertising – almost one million – was black money laundered in the organizations like Panda [an advertising agency]. It is unlikely that this government will investigate the case.”

Giga Bokeria, European Georgia: “They were spending so much money in this poor country for strengthening our enemy and discrediting free world, free idea. Such things cannot take place in a normal situation. We can suppose that such political decisions are made by one man – [ruling Georgian Dream party leader] Bidzina Ivanishvili.”

Shalva Shavgulidze, Free Democrats: “It does not undermine Georgia’s reputation, but rather discloses Bidzina Ivanishvili. He had hidden his pro-Russian orientation for a long time and now he failed to do the it. This latest disclosure by Facebook is the disclosure of his trolls’ pro-Russian orientation. Ivanishvili would better give people the right to fair elections.”

Ana Natsvlishvili, political movement Lelo: “This development – creation of trolls and bots and the machinery of lie – once again shows the huge problem in which our society has been sunk: it is a falseness, lie and fear of the truth.”

Davit Berdzenishvili, Republican Party: “These bots, trolls and the entire factory, are in the arsenal of the present government and Facebook has now unmasked it.”

Giorgi Vashadze, New Georgia: “All of this points at that the Georgian Dream is the main weapon in hands of Russia in terms of hybrid warfare. They manipulate exactly with internet resources, [they] manipulate with various false information and abuse people’s brains… to spread anti-western and pro-Russian rhetoric absolutely everywhere. Factually, what Facebook has done has fully confirmed that the Georgian Dream is the main weapon of hybrid warfare in Georgia.“

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