GEO

Fighting Disinformation in Georgia

23 December, 2019

 

The spread of disinformation remains to be one of the most pressing problems facing Georgia. The Russian Federation, which has occupied 20% of Georgia’s territory, carries out hybrid warfare against the country. It is no surprise that one of the most important tools used by Russia in this war is disinformation. Unfortunately, government-backed home-grown disinformation is also prevalent in Georgia,  which mainly serves narrow political interests and aims to discredit the ruling party opponents.

In light of the above-mentioned situation, Transparency International Georgia has studied some of the most frequently disseminated narratives regarding disinformation in the country, as well as their sources and a potential impact on Georgian society. The research also describes some of the ways Georgian government struggles with disinformation, the challenges we face and provides examples of international experience to address this challenge.

Below are the main findings of  the study:

  • Disinformation that is connected with Russia poses a particular challenge to Georgian society and is a part of hybrid warfare. The disinformation narratives have a clear anti-Western agenda.
  • Most messages in the offline space are spread in the Georgian language through certain Georgian media companies and political parties like the Alliance of Patriots, organizations such as the Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Centre and far-right nationalist movements like the Georgian March.
  • Since at least the Presidential election in 2018, home-grown disinformation has been used as a tool to systematically discredit political opponents in the online space in Georgia.
  • Countries that are at the forefront of tackling disinformation have understood the importance of awareness-raising and problem-acknowledgment. They have adopted an all-of-government approach and have taken appropriate measures across all relevant public agencies.
  • Georgia’s response to disinformation as a part of hybrid warfare is insufficient. The government is, in fact, unprepared to address hybrid threats. The security service does little in terms of exposing the dissemination of foreign-backed disinformation.
  • Concerns remain that the Georgian government might introduce anti-disinformation regulation that will challenge the robust legal protection for freedom of expression in Georgia.
  • All political sides, especially the government, have to immediately stop spreading and/or supporting disinformation and misinformation.
  • A separate anti-disinformation unit or agency should be created within the national security structures with the task of coordinating efforts against foreign-backed disinformation. Public officials need to be well equipped to identify and resist foreign interference. 
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