The DFRLab has previously covered Georgian far-right and pro-government actors’ influence activities on Facebook, the most popular social media platform in the country. Now, in an apparent diversification of their strategy, these actors appear to be moving to Twitter as well. The appearance of these accounts on Twitter, some of which appear inauthentic, come ahead of the October 2020 Georgian parliamentary elections, a time when the country is already increasingly polarized. Far-right discourse and inauthentic account risk further exacerbating this polarization.
On January 21, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, took to Twitter to reprimand the Georgian government publicly for its lack of commitment to democratic values, suspicious Twitter accounts seemingly based in Georgia accused the congressman of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs and having links with Georgian opposition parties.
One particularly prominent account appeared to be associated with a Facebook page called “Anti-liberal doctrine”, which is known to spread pro-Russian, anti-Georgian opposition, and anti-Western content. A Twitter account with the same name appears to be linked to this page on Facebook, which is also connected to the Twitter account @IRAKLI22414771, which joined Twitter in January 2020. The Facebook page posted a video in which an individual named Irakli Jankarashvili identified himself as the owner of the page. The person in the Facebook video and in the Twitter profile photo of the user @IRAKLI22414771 appeared to be the same individual, suggesting that the Facebook page with a penchant for spreading anti-Western and anti-liberal narratives had moved to Twitter with at least three different accounts: the “Anti-liberal doctrine” accounts in English and Georgian and that of the page owner, @IRAKLI22414771. An analysis using the Twitter analysis tool Tweetbeaver showed that @IRAKLI22414771 followed around 70 suspicious accounts. The account also follows some politicians and news agencies.
Many of the suspicious accounts were created in January and February 2020. The handles of more than half of them were followed by eight-digit numbers — alphanumerical handles are one of the main indicators of accounts engaging in bot-like behavior. Moreover, their activity on Twitter was zero or close to zero, and their number of followers was also close to zero. The similarity in the creation dates, handle pattern, and Twitter activity raises the possibility that they may be dormant inauthentic accounts created as part of a botnet. On Twitter, it is common for bot accounts to follow influential accounts, who in turn follow these automated accounts back — a courtesy known as a “follow back.” In theory, this could explain why @IRAKLI22414771 follows these suspicious accounts. The dormant accounts, however, do not currently follow @IRAKLI22414771, raising questions on why @IRAKLI22414771 would follow them.
Read more here: Suspicious Georgian Accounts Come for Twitter.