The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a local watchdog, presented on September 14 its first interim report on pre-election social media monitoring, analyzing 1,126 public posts during August 2-22.
ISFED said it identified 263 official Facebook pages of the 32 political parties participating in the local elections, as well as other pages administered by the parties such as Sinamdvileshi (In Reality) – a page administered by the ruling Georgian Dream party’s communications team, which checks the news related to ongoing political processes.
The watchdog reported that during the monitoring period Georgian Dream posted 892 political ads on social media, the highest number, followed by Third Force – Strategy Agmashenebeli with 155, and the UNM with – 93.
ISFED also stated that 20 organized Facebook pages attempted to discredit the ruling Georgian Dream party, with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, incumbent Mayor Kakha Kaladze, party chair Irakli Kobakhidze, founder Bidzina Ivanishvili and Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani being their key targets. The latter was also targeted with sexist attacks, according to ISFED.
According to the report, 25 pages targetted the opposition, with the United National Movement party being their key target. Women from the opposition parties were subjected to sexist remarks, ISFED noted.
The watchdog said most of the official pages of the local self-government bodies did not publish party-related articles, but “actively” shared information on Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s visits to the municipalities during the campaign. The report said also that as some of the mayoral and municipal council (Sakrebulo) hopefuls are incumbent officials, they were put in “an advantageous position” over other candidates as they received coverage on the relevant municipality pages.
ISFED noted that the Facebook page of the Zugdidi Municipality Council and the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regional page of the Georgian Dream simultaneously published videos related to Mamuka Tsotseria, incumbent Sakrebulo Chair and Zugdidi mayoral candidate.
The watchdog further identified 52 civil servants from 29 municipalities who published 118 possible election agitation posts during the working hours. According to the report, most of the published posts were in favor of the Georgian Dream party.
ISFED said it discovered 12 fake news media pages, mostly in support of the Georgian Dream government. Besides, the watchdog said one page favored former PM Giorgi Gakharia, and one page supported the United National Movement.
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