“Troll Factory” for Inal Ardzinba – “OKNO” Investigation

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Inal Ardzinba’s troll factory

The article was originally published on the “Echo of the Caucasus” website. The text and terminology of the article are unchanged. All rights belong to “Echo of the Caucasus”. Publication date: March 15, 2024.

The Abkhazian Telegram channel “OKNO” published another investigation about a coordinated campaign conducted by anonymous users on social networks. They criticize civil activists and journalists while praising Inal Ardzinba, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed republic.

“OKNO” publishes a list of these anonymous users, including names like “Heretic,” “Crocodile,” “Vakhtang,” “Dima,” “Anri Mzalia,” “Masik,” “Daut,” “Demagogue,” “Bata,” and “David.” They simultaneously comment on posts at the same time in the Telegram channels “Sputnik Abkhazia” and “Amra-life.”

“We reviewed all comments on ‘Sputnik Abkhazia’ posts from February 28 to March 13. There are 327 posts at the time of preparing this publication. Out of these, 24 posts are dedicated to the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia, and comments from this group of anonymous users are literally present in each of these posts. It becomes clear that their task is to exclusively comment on publications related to the work of the MFA and Inal Ardzinba,” states the Telegram post by “OKNO.”

Inal Ardzinba’s troll factory

The outlet publishes comments on news about the foreign ministry and its leader. They are “complimentary and encouraging, but at the same time formulaic, as if written by bots.”

  • Masik: “Humanitarian cooperation will be a good foundation for relationship development.”
  • Klein Zaches Genannt Apollon: “Healthy relationships between countries are the key to strengthening peace on earth!”
  • Dima: “Another step towards establishing friendly ties.”
  • Vakhtang: “Any cooperation is a step towards development. I hope both sides will find it beneficial.”
  • Anri Mzalia: “What areas of cooperation were discussed? Anyway, good luck with the joint activities.”
  • Daut: “Cooperation between two small but spiritually close countries.”
  • Crocodile: “The main thing is to keep up the pace.”
  • Heretic: “Cooperation with such a behemoth is very important.”
  • Demagogue: “Today we invest in tomorrow’s well-being.”
  • Bata: “Students need support, there are many talents among them.”
  • David: “Human capital, IT, biotechnologies – that’s the future. It’s great that we are starting to develop this.”

When commentators disagree with their idyllic view, the anonymous users switch to trolling and attacks:

  • Crocodile: “Maybe try again in the next post, but make sure YOU come prepared, we’ll have a little fun.”
  • Demagogue: “Where do you see self-isolation when Abkhazia is actually establishing relations with other republics?”

The “OKNO” representatives were drawn to the anonymity under the nicknames “Heretic” and “pus” for their “particularly offensive, arrogant, and derogatory manner of communication,” who are highly likely to be the same troll.

“Heretic and the rest of the anonymous group (Dima, Vakhtang, Masik, Daut, Anri Mzalia) appear on the ‘Amra-life’ channel, under posts about NGOs. ‘Pus’ is also there, summarizing the statements of these anonymous users. Interestingly, the rhetoric of the anonymous group and ‘pus’ is absolutely identical—they support the foreign minister’s policy towards NGOs, they are in favor of the ‘foreign agents’ law, and the so-called ‘investment policy’ of president Aslan Bzhania,” says the “OKNO” publication.

The anonymous team, according to “OKNO,” attempts “to cultivate a favorable image of the foreign minister and counter attacks from critical commentators.”

This activity, which amounts to dozens, if not hundreds of comments a day, matches a well-known mechanism for boosting political image — astroturfing. Clearly, no one would engage in this altruistically. Furthermore, as we have established, the troll ‘pus,’ who is part of this anonymous team, is located in Tbilisi,” says the publication.

Previously, “OKNO” representatives sent “pus” a special link which he, reportedly, “carelessly clicked on.”

“This allowed us to establish his IP address and, accordingly, his exact location. So, we obtained the following information about ‘pus’:

IP address: 31.146.30.241

Country: Georgia

Internet provider: JSC Silknet (Georgia),” stated the “OKNO” publication on March 1.

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