Facebook’s decision to remove hundreds of fake pages and accounts in Georgia has triggered mixed reactions in the country with the ruling Georgian Dream and the opposition United National Movement (UNM) parties denying any connection with the removed pages.
Georgian Dream’s response
Georgian Dream held a special news briefing on May 6 in response to Facebook’s decision.
MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the parliamentary majority, noted that the UNM has turned the use of hate speech and disinformation via social networks as its “trademark.”
He also said that the UNM is the only political organization referred to explicitly in the context of removing fake pages and accounts in Georgia.
“Facebook said that the National Movement’s fake accounts were targeting the Georgian Orthodox Church, the ruling party and government’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Mdinaradze noted.
According to ruling party MP, “this happens when the government is doing its utmost implementing its anti-crisis plan to reach out to each and every citizen hit hardest by the pandemic.”
Mdinaradze then thanked Facebook administration for its “efforts” and expressed hope that the platform will continue to monitor the situation in the run-up to the October polls, as this “will promote further improvement of democratic environment ahead of elections.”
He also denied any links between the ruling party and Koka Kandiashvili, former head of the communications department at PM’s Office, who was reportedly running Espersona – a media firm in Georgia, which, Facebook claimed, managed now removed 511 Pages, 101 Facebook accounts, and 122 Groups, and 56 Instagram accounts removed.
Affirming that Kandiashvili had no links with Georgian Dream since 2013-2014, Mdinaradze said that “no such bonds exist and naturally, Facebook could not have indicated about such links.”
United National Movement’s response
In a statement regarding Facebook’s decision the UNM welcomed the social media giant’s steps to take down “fake and unidentifiable pages,” noting that “the National Movement and party leaders have been the only target for such pages.”
“We categorically dismiss claims that the National Movement had run or will control unidentifiable pages in the future. Such methods are unacceptable for us,” the UNM said, stressing that they will support “all radical measures” aimed at restricting the spread of fake news in social networks.
It also said that the party’s key goal was to defeat Georgian Dream through “public, transparent political activities based on democratic values” and “fair elections.”
The UNM called on political parties and leaders, “especially those who once represented the National Movement” to refrain from “attacking the leading opposition party.”