Reports
Far-right forces use COVID-19 pandemic for anti-liberal and sharply disinformative campaign
01.05.2020
Democracy Research Institute continues to research far-right discourse in online and social media context. In April, the spread of coronavirus remained in the focus of the majority of Georgian far-right Facebook pages. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 was, again, used to spread anti-Western, anti-liberal and distinctly misinformative messages.
Far-right conspiracies about COVID-19 Pandemic
In April, Facebook pages „GEO PEPE“, „Alt-Club“, „Anti-liberal league“, „Georgian Page“ and „Georgia First of All“ spread multiple misinformed messages about COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the most popular conspiracies were the 5G internet conspiracy, according to which the technology and spread of the virus are connected; and the Bill Gates conspiracy, who, according to the abovementioned sources, is trying to battle the pandemic by implanting microchips into people. 
Far-right Facebook pages „Georgian Page“ and „Georgia First of All“ disseminated a post by journalist Lali Moroshkina, in which she talks about the virus spreading through 5G technology. The same post was also spread by pro-Russian online media platform “Marshalpress”. It’s important to note that WHO (World Health Organization) has already made a comment about the 5G technology conspiration, emphasizing that there are no proves that there’s any connection between COVID-19 and 5G technology: Viruses cannot spread through radio waves and mobile networks. COVID-19 spread in many countries where there is no 5G technology to begin with”.  Professor Stephen Powis, Medical Director for England in United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) called the myth about the connection of COVID-19 and 5G technologies „the worst kind of fake news“.
Pro-Russian Georgian media actively supported the spread of misinformation about coronavirus and microchips. On April 3rd, tvalsazrisi.ge published an article with following headline „Nano vaccination creates an opportunity to have a microchip implanted”. According to the popular conspiracy, Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is trying to have microchips implanted into people to control them. This misinformation was first spread in Russian online media sources, among them zavtra.ru, fonds36k.ru  and svpressa.ru.
 
Anti-Western messages from far-right groups
Far-right groups perceived the declaration of the state of emergency before Easter as a targeted attack against the church. Facebook pages „Alt-Club“, „Alt Info“ and „Geo pepe” started a campaign trying to present liberalism as the main enemy of Georgian Orthodox Church.
Mainly, it was the far-right group leaders who spread these anti-liberal messages. The leader of “Georgian Idea”, Levan Chachua called this decision the government’s „religious cohabitation“  with the United National Movement and stated that only “the Pharisees and people zombified by Soros’s media” do not attend Easter service. On April 11, far-right group leader Levan Vasadze addressed Georgian Government with a letter, where he wrote that the economic crises that arose amid the pandemic was the result of “anti-national liberal ideology” and that Government should act to avoid mass starvation. On April 8, far-right activist Beka Vardosanidze published a post, where he wrote that Liberal Powers are working on a petition to demand an end of concordant between Georgian Government and the Church. He accused the liberal media of hiding facts about ritual of anointing and called them enemies of Patriarchate.
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The monitoring was possible with the financial support of the Embassy of the Netherlands in the framework of the project "Understanding and Combating Far-Right Extremism and Ultra-Nationalism in Georgia”.