Propagandistic FACEBOOK pages aim to provoke irrational fears and polarization in the society
ISFED presented social media monitoring report.
On November 19, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy presented another report of social media monitoring in the context of the 2018 presidential election. The present report summarizes the findings of monitoring Facebook pages disseminating value-based divisive narratives during the presidential election.
During the 2018 Presidential election, ISFED identified 52 Facebook pages that were actively engaged in dissemination of divisive value-based narratives. These pages were liked by a total of 1,176,400 users. They published a total of 22,606 posts from June 1, 2018 through January 5, 2019, with a total of 5,864,606 post interactions.
The monitoring suggests that these pages aim to incite value-based confrontation and polarization in the society, create irrational fears, influence public discourse and radicalize the society on ideological grounds. Narratives and propaganda methods of these Facebook pages are identical to those used by the Kremlin in various European countries.
Divisive narrative pages can be grouped under six different categories of narratives: nationalistic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti-Western, anti-liberal and homophobic.
Nationalistic messages featured ethnic, Orthodox and (ultra)conservative nationalism content. Messages against Georgia’s neighbors had a significant share, including on the anti-occupation issue, where other neighboring countries were named as occupiers alongside Russia. Among these, anti-Turkish messages were most frequent, portraying Turkey as an enemy of Georgia.
The pages incited xenophobic feelings mostly toward citizens of Asian and African countries. These pages actively campaigned against issuing of residency permits to such individuals, entry of citizens of Iran, Arab states, India, China, Africa and other countries into Georgia, and were trying to link the immigration from non-Western countries to increased rates of crime, citing false facts.
Islamophobic messages were mostly directed against Islam or Muslims of Georgian and foreign nationality. Some of the pages tied Islam with violence and terrorism. They were openly against building of mosques in Ajara and highlighted the threat of Georgia’s “Islamization”.
Some divisive narrative pages contained openly anti-western propaganda. Among the posts that were published, messages against the EU, the Council of Europe and NATO were especially salient. Divisive narrative pages are against Georgia’s integration with NATO. Often the West was identified with immorality.
The pages openly oppose the cultural characteristics of liberal democracy, liberalism and those who share liberal values. Propaganda pages confront liberalism with Orthodox, national and traditional values. Some posts were also against multiculturalism. These pages were spreading anti-feminist, sexist and misogynist messages. One of the key messages was the propaganda against abortion. Additionally, campaign against George Soros and NGOs was very active.
Divisive narrative pages openly expressed unacceptability toward LGBTQI community and were against the anti-discrimination law or its application to representatives of the LGBTQI community. Homophobic messages sometimes manifested in violent calls. Anti-LGBTQI narrative was often related to messages against Guram Kashia.
Analysis of political rhetoric of the pages examined by ISFED indicates that in some cases facts of direct or indirect support toward the Georgian Dream were found. Some divisive narrative pages openly supported the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia and its leaders.
Divisive narrative pages likely form closely tied networks, with two of them seemingly the most influential. The fact that sources shared by these pages were identical indicates that these pages work as a network. The pages that are allegedly part of a network are actively sharing the content of their respective source as well as each other’s posts.
 The data does not represent the number of unique users, as one user may have liked several of these pages.
 Interaction means total number of reactions, comments and shares.