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Georgian far-right group expands Facebook presence ahead of elections

A Georgian far-right group Alt-Info is spreading anti-Western and anti-LGBT narratives as parliamentary elections draw near

(Source: Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო via Facebook)

Ahead of the fall 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia, the Georgian far-right group Alt-Info has become increasingly active on Facebook, where it spreads anti-Western and anti-LGBT narratives and disinformation. The group is attempting to present itself as a credible mainstream online media outlet, conducting Facebook live interviews and sharing articles in order to expand its audience and reach.

The far-right, anti-Western groups, and aligned political parties are becoming noticeably active both online and offline. The anti-Western and pro-Russian opposition political party “the Alliance of Patriots” is conducting its own public opinion polls as alternatives to those conducted by Western democracy development organizations operating in Georgia, such as National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI). The party claims to “investigate” public attitudes toward Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, which according to a recent NDI poll, are increasingly favorable. Meanwhile, the ultra-nationalist group “Georgian March,” which over the past three years has organized several violent demonstrations targeting ethnic and LGBT minorities, is forming a political party ahead of the October parliamentary elections.

The DFRLab previously covered Alt-Info’s behavior on Facebook regarding 2019 Tbilisi Pride, ahead of which the group attempted to shore up anti-LGBT sentiment in Georgia together with other anti-Western and far-right Facebook pages.

How Alt-Info operates

The current Alt-Info page was created in June 2019; an earlier version of the page, however, was taken down by Facebook in May 2019 along with other far-right and ultra-nationalist pages. Alt-Info’s page managers created a new page for the group shortly after.

The About section of the page describes Alt Info as a conservative media platform and provides a link to group’s website.

The Facebook home page of the Georgian far-right group Alt-Info. (Source: Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive)

At the time of writing, the page had 37,256 followers. According to a CrowdTangle analysis, the page has been steadily building an audience over the last three months.

A CrowdTangle analysis of the Alt-Info Facebook audience growth from April-June 2020. (Source: EtoBuziashvili/DFRLab via CrowdTangle)

The page primarily posts short video “explainers” and live video discussions featuring its members, as well as the articles published on the group’s website, Alt-Info.com. Starting in spring 2020, the group has recorded a series of online interviews with anti-Western public figures, Georgian Orthodox Church representatives, and MPs from the ruling party. The far-right group also conducted an interview with Adam Kinzinger, co-chair of the Georgia Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, who has recently commented on the backsliding of democracy in Georgia.

This interview format is likely an attempt by the far-right group to present itself as a trustworthy source of news and commentary and continue to grow its audience in Georgia.

A CrowdTangle analysis of the Georgian far-right Facebook page’s interactions for the last three months, from April-June 2020. (Source: EtoBuziashvili/DFRLab via CrowdTangle)

The page has consistently attacked Western values, as well as the LGBT community in Georgia. It selectively shares articles that portray the West as an unstable place in an attempt to influence Georgian public opinion on the country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Alt-Info has exploited the ongoing protests in the United States against police brutality and racial injustice, selectively amplifying content that shows individuals setting fire to churches. Religion and the role of the church is a particularly sensitive topic in Georgia, and this content is intended to present an overall picture of the United States as an unsafe place where religious freedom is violated.

The Georgian far-right Facebook page selectively shared negative coverage of the U.S. protests. (Source: Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive, left; Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive, center; Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive, right via CrowdTangle)

The page also shared articles that targeted the LGBT community in particular, which faces rampant homophobia and discrimination in socially conservative Georgia. In one example, Alt-Info shared several articles that cited the Polish president’s campaign pledge to ban the study of LGBT issues from schools and prohibit gay marriage and adoption. As shown by CrowdTangle, the engagement with the anti-LGBT articles on the page is high, varying from 200 to 900 reactions to the posts.

Anti-LGBT articles shared by Alt-Info. (Source: Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive, left; Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive, center; Alt-Info • ალტ-ინფო/archive, right via Facebook/CrowdTangle)

While Alt-Info attempts to present itself as a trusted source for news and analysis on Georgia, the group attempts to sow distrust of the West and incite anti-LGBT sentiment in the country in an effort to push its anti-Western political agenda. This activity is particularly concerning ahead of the approaching parliamentary elections, during which several anti -Western parties will be competing for the votes of Georgians.

Eto Buziashvili is a Research Associate, Caucasus, with the Digital Forensic Research Lab and is based in Georgia.

Follow along for more in-depth analysis from our #DigitalSherlocks.

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@AtlanticCouncil’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

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@DFRLab

@DFRLab

@AtlanticCouncil's Digital Forensic Research Lab. Catalyzing a global network of digital forensic researchers, following conflicts in real time.

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