In the pre-election period, both political forces and figures, as well as fake user accounts and pages supporting them, become active in social networks.
Recently, such activity has been observed among the Facebook pages supporting the ruling Civil Contract Party. It is noteworthy that this activity became more evident after the former mayor Hayk Marutyan announced his participation in the Yerevan City Council elections.
Along with Marutyun’s statement, Facebook pages that were previously created, but were not active recently, were reactivated, as well as new ones were created, which at once engaged in the work of praising the mayoral candidate Tigran Avinyan, as well as discrediting the rival candidate Marutyan, and sometimes Mane Tandilyan.
The simultaneous activation or creation of these pages gives grounds for claiming that they are managed from the same center.
The “With Facts” Facebook page was created on August 9. The day before, on August 8, Marutyan announced his participation in the local elections.
Minutes after its creation, a video was posted on this page, in which it is claimed that the new buses were imported with the efforts of Tigran Avinyan.
The next post appeared on the page a week later, and the target was Marutyan again. This time, the post of one of the users was published, where the latter describes the nomination of Hayk Marutyan as a “political hocus”.
Then several videos appeared on the page about the reforms implemented in Yerevan, one of which is about “Gazelles” replaced by buses.
It is noteworthy that the other publications had 1-2 likes or comments, while the number of likes for the videos dedicated to Hayk Marutyan and buses is 400-700, which allows us to claim that Facebook advertising was used for these two publications. By the way, scanning the photos posted on the page allows us to claim that it was created as part of a propaganda campaign against Hayk Marutyan. Two of the four published pictures are pictures with the name of the page, the other two are “dedicated” to Hayk Marutyan.
During the writing of the article, a post was added on the page, for which Facebook advertising is used.
The next day, August 9, the News 23 page was created. Minutes after its creation, the first post was already made and, of course, referring to Hayk Marutyan. Minutes later, another post appeared, again about Marutyan.
By the way, this page has not yet used Facebook advertising and does not have any likes or followers.
Next is the “Powerful Armenia” page, which has more than 10,000 likes.
It was created in 2020 and had the name “Armenia, the land of memes”. At first, it was an entertainment page, but on the eve of the 2021 local elections, it actively campaigned in favor of the Civil Contract Party.
There were no posts on the page since December 3, 2021, the last day of the local election campaign. After more than 1.5 years, however, the page was relaunched, and by an interesting coincidence, exactly on August 8, just like the previous pages.
After the relaunch, active campaigning began. This is expressed by videos featuring Tigran Avinyan, distribution of videos posted on his Facebook page, posting of stories, etc.
By another interesting coincidence, the above-mentioned pages shared the videos about Hayk Marutyan on the same day, August 9. By the way, in the case of videos “dedicated” to Hayk Marutyan, this page most likely uses Facebook’s paid advertising service.
This is evidenced by the fact that similar videos have several hundred reactions, while other videos have one or just a few reactions.
By the way, a Facebook-advertised part of the interview of Armen Begoyan, director of “Landscaping and Environmental Protection” CNCO, was published, in which Begoyan presented the activities of Hayk Marutyan, the mayor, in a negative light.
During the writing of the article, previously enabled ads disappeared from the page and new ones appeared.
It is noteworthy that the data about the advertiser on this page almost coincide with the data of the advertiser published on another page, which we will refer to below.
The “Armenian News” page was also created on the eve of the 2021 parliamentary elections, on June 8. It is not known what content posts were made on those days, but the page was suddenly activated a few days ago, on September 2. The main photo of the page has the same text as the “With Facts” Facebook page, just with a slightly different font. And the only post and the accompanying caption are the same as in the case of the “With Facts” page.
400-500 US dollars were spent on the dissemination of this post alone.
As we mentioned, although it is not known who the advertisers are, the phone numbers of the latter, again by an interesting coincidence, differ from each other by only one digit, which is far from being a coincidence. The customer registered the phone number 098 02 71 20 for the advertisement placed on the “Powerful Armenia” page, while the phone number of the advertiser on the “Armenian News” page is 098 02 41 20.
The names of those who manage these phone numbers are not known either.
The “Mysterious Yerevantsi” page was created in March of this year, and although there were almost no posts on the page until August 1, it still had more than 10,000 likes and followers, which suggests that previous posts have been deleted.
As we mentioned, the page has been active since August 1. The main content is the same – publications supporting the ruling party and propaganda against the opponents, which is sometimes accompanied by offensive posts addressed to the latter.
Another page, “C News“, was created in February of this year. The interface of the page and the news items shared from the civic.am website indicate that it is affiliated with the Civil Contract Party (civic.am is a media outlet created by the Civic Contract Party). It becomes more obvious when we see that the page invites you to follow the Telegram channel of civic.am, and the ads placed on the page were financed by civic.am itself, i.e. by the Civil Contract Party. By the way, quite a significant amount of money was spent on advertisements (several hundred dollars).
In addition to several routine posts on the page, before the start of the pre-election campaign, Mane Tandilyan, the chairperson of the “Country to Live” party, was targeted several times, and after the start of the campaign, Hayk Marutyan was also targeted.
From this list, perhaps, the Facebook page “The Truth” has the greatest “weight”. It was from this page that MP Vahagn Aleksanyan shared a video supporting the Civil Contract Party, in which former mayor Hayk Marutyan was “removed” from the footage of signing the bus loan agreement (Aleksanyan later admitted the mistake).
During the writing of this article, one of the videos published on the page was shared by the city council member candidates from the Civil Contract Party Armen Galjian and Khoren Grigoryan. The latter later removed that post from his page.
The page was created a few weeks before the snap parliamentary elections in 2021, and the main target was former president Robert Kocharyan. The host of some of the posted videos is Vilen Gayfejyan, a member of the “My Step” faction of the Yerevan City Council.
During that pre-election period, the items posted on the page were directed against former President Robert Kocharyan, and after the elections, the page “was silent”. From the review of the page, it becomes obvious that it is activated from time to time, especially during events with public resonance, which in one way or another can “be problematic” for the ruling party.
For example, on September 13-14 last year, during the days of the Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia, the page became active again and began to blame, first, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, then the former presidents, the Armenian Patriarch, among others. That time, the activity was maintained for about a month, and then the page stopped posting again.
The next post on the page was made in March of this year, against Mane Tandilyan, the chairperson of the “Country to Live” party, then the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was again targeted, then Mane Tandilyan, and starting August 8, Hayk Marutyan was also targeted.
YUMMY FOOD and Matsoun pages have been operating since 2010 and, as the names suggest, are food blogs. However, as in the case of other pages, at some point these also changed their “field of activity” drastically, engaging in posting political content.
In 2021, “Matsoun” was busy campaigning against the opposition candidate Gevorg Parsyan, and in favour of the Civil Contract Party candidate Davit Danielyan during local elections in Kapan. However, after those elections, this page also stopped posting until August 8 of this year.
After 2-3 neutral posts and videos, the first post about Hayk Marutyan appeared on the page and, of course, not in a positive light.
The “YUMMY FOOD” page was also a food blog until the end of 2018. However, starting from December 2018, there was “silence” on the page until August 8 of this year. From August 8, food photos start to appear on the page one after another until August 19, and after that, all of a sudden, political content appeared, and as you can guess, against Hayk Marutyan and in favor of Tigran Avinyan. The page also used Facebook advertising.
Judging by the parallel and similar actions of all these pages, they are managed from the same center or at least they are interconnected. The goal is to carry out propaganda against the opponents of the Civil Contract Party, and the coverage of the activities of their candidates is only a second priority.
As for the funding sources of the advertised items on these pages, Hayk Kostanyan, the spokesperson of the election headquarters of the Civil Contract Party, told us that money from the Civil Contract election fund is allocated exclusively for the items published on the official pages of Tigran Avinyan and the the Civil Contract Party, and the election headquarters is not responsible for other pages.
Kostanyan recommended contacting the party itself to find out who allocates the money spent on those pages.
Thus, it should be noted that many pages supporting the Civil Contract Party and campaigning against political opponents are created or activated from election to election, and thousands of dollars of unknown origin are spent on their activities.
P.S. We called the phone numbers 098 02-71-20 and 098 02-41-20 mentioned on the pages with ads, but they could not be reached.