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Political ads on Facebook and Instagram during the 2021 elections


Political advertisements are one of the main means of informing voters during the election process, which is used to form voters' attitudes/opinions about the election subjects. Political ads placed on social media platforms have an impact on elections, as evidenced by tech companies banning these types of ads, or the imposition of special standards of transparency to reduce the negative impact on democratic processes.

Since August 2020, a library of political advertisements was launched in Georgia, which collects sponsored posts on political and social issues and stores information about them for 7 years. The tool introduced by Facebook, is an important source for ensuring the transparency of ads containing political and election content. In order to place ads on Facebook and make spending more transparent, ISFED has issued recommendations for the various parties involved in the 2021 elections. One of the recommendations was addressed to political parties / election subjects, which involved adhering to the standard of transparency set by Facebook when publishing advertisements and fulfilling the obligation to declare expenses in the State Audit Office. The financial declarations submitted by some political parties in 2021 contain information on the cost of Facebook ads, although individual ads are not as detailed as outdoor billboard ads.

This document discusses posts published by election subjects on Facebook and Instagram in connection with the 2021 municipal elections regarding the costs of political / election advertisements, the demographic data of the audience, and the scale of dissemination. In addition, presented information includes unofficial advertisements sponsored mostly by anonymous actors and ads’ costs, which were mainly intended to discredit opponents. The document also contains information about the placement of undeclared political advertisements on Facebook and Instagram.

Data on advertised ads - their number, range of funds spent and demographic distribution are collected and analyzed based on data from the Facebook Ad Library. Undeclared political advertisements during their period of activity on the platform were documented by ISFED’s social media monitors.


1. Sponsored official election campaign on Facebook and Instagram

    1.1 Amount of Political Party Advertisements and Expenses.

According to the Facebook Advertising Library, for the 2021 local elections from August 9 to November 6, 8,126 political advertisements were posted on Facebook and Instagram by political parties and their representatives / candidates, with no less than $ 524,602 and no more than $ 536,086 being spent on them. Based on the ads stored in the library, 8,010 ads were declared in accordance with the rules and standards of Facebook, and 114 were undeclared, which is only 1% of the ads registered in the library. ISFED found 325 undeclared advertisements on the election subjects' pages between August 2 and October 30, of which only 34 were searchable on Facebook's ad library due to the platform marking and suspending them as political advertisements. The 291 undeclared political and / or electoral advertisements identified by ISFED monitors on the official pages disappeared from the advertisement library after the sponsorships expired, without knowing the amount that was spent on them.

The table below shows the total number of ads placed on various official political party pages, as well as the most and least amount spent on these ads1.


ISFED also requested information about the political advertisements posted on Facebook and Instagram from the Political Finance Monitoring Department of the State Audit Office. According to the information provided by the Audit Service, from the period of August 2 to October 26, 16 election subjects had submitted information about the advertising expenses on Facebook out of 43 political parties participating in the elections. According to the submitted financial declarations, the political parties spent a total of 1 476 343 GEL on Facebook. The ruling party paid the most money for political ads on social media – 514 222 GEL. The United National Movement spent 422 883 thousand GEL and Lelo for Georgia spent 136 433 GEL.





Political parties operate on Facebook and place ads through official pages created by major and various structural organizations, regional or district / municipality units. ISFED also paid attention to the individual costs of the pages of their representatives / candidates, as well as the advertising costs of political parties. The political party or the candidate himself is indicated as the payer of the advertising fees on the given pages. For example, according to the Facebook Advertising Library, from August 9 to November 6, 110 pages of various Georgian Dream organizations and leaders / candidates posted ads on the platform. A different example is the ads of the party "Progress and Freedom", which were posted only on the Facebook page of the leader of the union, Kakha Okriashvili. The chart below shows the number of ads published weekly by each page. The pages are classified based on the affiliation of the political parties.

Number of weekly advertisements (visual) placed on the Facebook pages of election subjects from August 9 to November 6, 2021


According to the Ads Library, “Georgian Dream” party leads in terms of potential ad viewership on the Facebook (Meta) platforms, which can be explained by the high number of pages and ads compared to other parties. During the mentioned period, the second highest amount of potential views belonged the UNM pages - ერთიანი ნაციონალური მოძრაობა • United National Movement and Nika Melia / ნიკა მელია.

In addition to the Georgian Dream and UNM pages, the ads on the following pages had more than half a million average potential views: For Georgia, Tamaz Mechiauri for Unified Georgia, Kakha OkriashviliDroa ,Ana Bibilashvili.


According to the Facebook Advertising Library, political parties had different strategies for the periodicity of advertising. For example, the parties "For Georgia", "Progress and Freedom", "Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia" published relatively short-term advertisements lasting a maximum of 7-8 days. The United National Movement, European Georgia, Aleko Elisashvili - Citizens, and Strategy Aghmashenebeli mostly ran one, two, or three-day ads, although a small portion of the ads ran for 10-13 days. Relatively long ads were placed by "Girch" and "Lelo", which were active for 16-19 days. The Georgian Dream mostly posted two-day ads on average, but its strategy differed from other parties in that it ran several 55-day ads in parallel with short-term ads. Overall, the duration of 55% of the ads published by election subjects was 2 days on average.



1.2 Demographic distribution of political advertisements

The Facebook Advertising Library generates the audience of political advertising visitors based on regions of Georgia. More than 70% of the Advertisement audience of only two parties - For Georgia and Progress and Freedom, were from the regions of Georgia. 40-45% of the audience of the UNM, "Third Force Strategy Aghmashenebeli", "European Georgia" and "Girchi" was from Tbilisi, while the rest belonged to different regions. 60% of the audience of the “Georgian Dream” and “Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia” was from Tbilisi. 70-89% of the audience was from Tbilisi on advertisements posted by Vato Shakarashvili, “Aleko Elisashvili – Citizens”, “Droa” and “Girchi – More Freedom”.


The gender distribution of the audience of advertisements posted by political parties on Facebook and Instagram is more or less equal, with a few exceptions. Most of the audience of "Girchi - More Freedom", "Aleko Elisashvili - Citizens" and "Girchi" advertisements are male, while 55% and 56% of the audience for “Lelo” and “Progress and Freedom” ads are female.


Based on the parties, the age distribution of advertisement audiences are more or less the same. However, it is noteworthy that the 18-24 age group is less represented in the advertising audience of the following election subjects compared to other parties: "Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia", "Aleko Elisashvili - Citizens", "Lelo", "Strategy Aghmashenebeli" and Vato Shakarishvili. The age category of 65 and over in the audience of "Lelo", "European Georgia" and "Progress and Freedom" advertisements does not exceed 5%. The age distribution of the “Girchi - More Freedom” audience is completely different: 96% of the audience is below the age 44, in which 19% is occupied by ages from 35 to 44.




2. Anonymously sponsored election campaign

 2.1 Discrediting anonymous pages

 2.1.1.Pages Acting Against Opposition Parties


Out of the 40 anti-opposition pages monitored2 by ISFED during the 2021 self-government elections, 479 advertisements were published on 11 pages. Most of them (150 ads) were posted by the page “არქივი - Archive” which also spent the most amount of money. The ads posted on such pages are mostly formally declared, although the identities of the actual sponsors are not specified. Part of the pages show only the name and surname of the payer, while others publish advertisements using the name of the page, which makes it impossible to identify the payer of the advertising fee. Additional information about the customer is either not specified or is fake and is only added for the validity of the page.

Coordination of the pages is visible by observing the ad library. For example, the pages “Journalist Fails“ and „Political Absurdity“ cite Natela Kiladze as the sponsor, indicating that they are run by a single source.

The main target of the campaign, which was sponsored by anti-opposition parties during the election period, was the United National Movement and Mikheil Saakashvili. The pages mainly sponsored posts on high-profile cases related to the previous government, including footage of torture and ill-treatment in prisons.

In the run-up to the second round of elections, the pages were actively publishing discrediting advertisements of the Tbilisi opposition coalition and mayoral candidate Nika Melia. Some of the posts sponsored during the reporting period were directed at other UNM candidates, including Anzor Melia, Koba Nakopia, Davit Kirkitadze and Gigi Ugulava. Giorgi Gakharia, the leader of the party "For Georgia", was one of the main targets of the sponsored defamatory campaign. Gakharia was portrayed as a political associate of the UNM in ads posted by the pages – “პოლიტიკური აბსურდი/Political Absurdity”, “პოლიტიკური სატირა/Political Satire” and “Politics - პოლიტიკა“. The advertisements also appealed for the members of the party "For Georgia" to leave. Mamuka Khazaradze, the leader of the party "Lelo for Georgia" was among the targets of the pages.

In parallel with discrediting the opposition, advertisements in support of the Georgian Dream and their leaders were also published on the pages. On the page "უფალო შეგვიწყალე/Lord have mercy” Irakli Garibashvili was presented as a politician that is defending the church, while pages "Gldaneli, “Varketili“ and "Political Satire" sponsored posts in support of Kakha Kaladze. Advertisements on discrediting pages targeted media outlets critical of Government, including Mtavari Arkhi, Formula, and TV Pirveli. The page "უფალო შეგვიწყალენ/ Lord have mercy” presented them as anti-church subjects. The journalists’ work ethics and political affiliations were emphasized on the sponsored posts published by the pages. The page "journalist fails" sponsored a post urging the audience to turn off Mtavari Arkhi for one day. A news report against a Formula TV host - Misha Mshvildadze was also advertised.

In addition to the media, the sponsored campaign also targeted the non-governmental sector. The page "Time for Truth”, which, along with other coordinated pages, was involved in the discrediting campaign of non-governmental organizations3, distributed advertisements against ISFED.




 2.1.2 Pages acting against the Georgian Dream

Out of 35 anti-government Facebook pages4 monitored by ISFED, only 2 published ads during the reporting period. Most of the advertisements published on the anti-Georgian Dream pages had corrupt portrayals of the Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze and touched on accusations against him regarding misappropriation of funds.  The rest of the ads had messages demanding to vote against the ruling party in the 2021 local government elections. One of the ad posting Facebook page “Come to the Elections“, on which five sponsored advertisements were published, is affiliated with the online publication "", and its editor, Giorgi Kartvelishvili, has been identified as the sponsor.


2.2. Ads on pages supporting political parties

2.2.1. Pages supporting opposition

According to ISFED, there were 40 pages in support of opposition parties on Facebook during the election period5, 7 of which sponsored posts. The mentioned pages posted a total of 33 ads, which mainly contained candidate support messages. The sponsor of these ads shared the same name as the pages. The page ”Chiatura Hour” shared supporting posts of Giorgi Kasradze, candidate for the Chiatura Sakrebulo chairperson from the “alliance of patriots of Georgia” party. Other pages shared posts in support of Mikheil Saakashvili, including: ”Free Misha”, “Tavtavi Club”, “Peoples movement for Mikheil Saakashvili’s freedom” and “Giorgi’s Page”.





2.2.2 Pages supporting Georgian Dream

During the reporting period, there were 30 Georgian Dream support pages6, 6 of which sponsored 316 posts on Facebook. Some of the ads expressed support for the ruling party, while others expressed anti-opposition sentiment. The page “Georgian Dream is my choic sponsored the most (159) posts, the payer of which was “41 GD”. In the advertisements published on the page, Irakli Garibashvili was presented as a defender of traditions and a leader focused on the development of the country. The page also advertised posts against former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, in which he was referred to as a "traitor to the team". It should be noted that the page also sponsored defamatory posts aimed at media outlets that are critical of the government. Similar to "41 GD", the page "Georgian Soul/sakartve1o” also aimed to portray the Prime Minister as a defender of religion and national values in their advertisements. A page named „Georgia first and foremost” is connected to the above mentioned page.





  2.3 False Media Pages

False media pages give the impression of being a credible online media outlet based on their name, the content on it, and the information in the About Me section. In reality they inform the public based on specific political goals, by using sponsored posts and selective coverage. During the previous elections, false media tactics were used in favor of the ruling party, however, in the 2021 local self-government elections the same tactics were used to support singular opposition candidates. For example, the pages “Zugdidi Info / ზუგდიდი“, “Tsalenjikha News/ წალენჯიხა“ and “Tsalenjikha/წალენჯიხა“  supported the UNM candidates Anzor Melia, Gia Kharchilava and “For Georgia” candidate Gela Abuladze respectively. The largest number of posts (70) was sponsored by “სიახლეების ბლოგი •Blog News”. For the most part, the page advertised posts in support of the government on politically sensitive issues and against opposition candidates and media critical of the government. In addition to the aforementioned page, “ეროვნული ამბები - National News“ also sponsored posts in support of Liberty Bank.

According to ISFED’s observation7, the usage these types of pages have become especially active since the 2018 presidential election.  It should be noted that 35 pages identified by the organization were among the pages that Facebook8 deleted because of unauthentic coordinated action in 2019. In the run-up to the 2020 elections, ISFED has discovered a new network of fake media outlets that spread pro-government messages and discredit those critical of them. They carried out their tactic of reaching a wide audience not through advertising, but through activity in thousands of Facebook groups. Another large-scale deletion by Facebook in April also affected these pages, although some of them continued to operate10 using different approaches.



  2.4 Fake support

ISFED observed a fake supporting page called "Misha in Georgia on October 2"11 during the 2021 elections. During the reporting period, the page sponsored posts that mainly focused on Mikheil Saakashvili’s arrival in Georgia and the subsequent developments. In reality the page was discrediting the UNM in disguise. "Mishasakartveloshi"[name of the page] was indicated as the payer in the advertisement library. Among the posts sponsored on the page, one was aimed only at Facebook users in the Samegrelo region. The mentioned post was published in Megrelian text and depicted Anzor and Nika Melia as Saakashvili’s opposers12.


According to the Facebook Advertising Library, from August 9 to November 6, among regions Tbilisi leads in terms of the percentage distribution of political and social advertising expenditures in Georgia, followed by Imereti and Adjara.

The map below shows the distribution of all advertising costs published during the period by regions that Facebook deemed political and / or social, including ads posted by the media and various organizations.


Percentage distribution of funds spent on political and social advertisements posted on Facebook from August 9 to November 6, 2021 by regions (Source: Facebook Ad Library Report)



  3. Undeclared political advertisements

ISFED found 384 undeclared political advertisements posted on Facebook and / or Instagram between August 2 and October 30, 2021. Among them, 325 advertisements were posted on the official Facebook pages of political parties and their representatives / candidates. All undeclared advertisements were appealed by the organization ("report ad") to the social media platform as political advertisements. The organization, in accordance with the rules of Facebook, considers advertisements as political that are:

  • Relates to or belongs to a political actor, party, candidate, campaign and aims to influence election results;
    • Concerns elections, including voter information and mobilization campaigns;
    • Relates to social issues.

Facebook suspended only 10% of the appealed ads. Thus, the platform's response to complaints about undeclared advertisements was inadequate.

The undeclared political advertisements identified by ISFED were more often posted on the official pages of political parties and their leaders, members of local self-government bodies and mayoral candidates. The Facebook pages of “Girchi - More Freedom “, „Girchi“ and “Third Force“, published the most undeclared political advertisements. In addition, undeclared political advertisements were also posted on non-party and anonymous pages on social media platforms. The most active of them was page ”Politicano”





The Social Media Monitoring Program is implemented with the support of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (IFA) of the Federal Foreign Office of the Federative Republic of Germany. The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) is solely responsible for the content of this article, and the views expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of the donor.



[1] When the cost of advertising is less than $ 100, the exact amount of the cost is not specified in the Facebook Advertising Library report. Data is presented as ‘≤100’

[2] ISFED: Final Report on Social Media Monitoring of the 2021 Municipal Elections, December 21, 2021.

[3] ISFED, a manipulative campaign on Facebook regarding the election process. September 28, 2021.

[4] ISFED: Final Report on Social Media Monitoring of the 2021 Municipal Elections, December 21, 2021.

[5] ISFED: Final Report on Social Media Monitoring of the 2021 Municipal Elections, December 21, 2021.

[6] ISFED: Final Report on Social Media Monitoring of the 2021 Municipal Elections, December 21, 2021.

[7] ISFED: "Trying to Create an Alternative Reality in Georgia: False Media Pages on Facebook", January 25, 2019

[8] ISFED: "Which government pages were deleted by Facebook and which were deleted on their own initiative?", December 28, 2019

[9] ISFED: "Political Network of Coordinated False Media Pages for Political Purposes", April 30, 2020

[10] ISFED: Network of false media pages that survived the Facebook takedown

[11] ISFED: Final Report on Social Media Monitoring of the 2021 Municipal Elections, December 21, 2021.

[12] ISFED: "Fourth Interim Report on Social Media Monitoring of the 2021 Municipal Elections", October 21, 2021.