Armenia Assailed by Deceptive “Fact-Checking” Groups, Part 2: The Coordination

The operators of the Adekvad and pages openly coordinated in their influence campaign

Armenia Assailed by Deceptive “Fact-Checking” Groups, Part 2: The Coordination

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BANNER: (Source: @ZKharazian/DFRLab)

Joint press conference with the directors of Adekvad and on their #SutNikol campaign, livestreamed by the Adekvad page. (Source: Ադեկվադ/archive)

Adekvad also posted a two-minute video on its page of footage compiled and edited from the longer livestream of the men’s spray-painting campaign. The video prominently featured Narek Samsonyan of the NGO behind

The edited video had been viewed 35,000 times and received 854 reactions, 226 shares, and 68 comments as of April 18.

A still of Narek Samsonyan, chairman of the NGO behind the movement, from the video posted by the Adekvad page. (Source: Ադեկվադ/archive)

That the known operators of both initiatives appeared together on several occasions documented online suggests that coordination between the two groups was explicit and open: Adekvad and presented themselves as a united front for the #SutNikol campaign.

Anti-Gardasil Vaccine Content on Both Pages

In addition to coordinating on joint public appearances and engagements, the pages likely coordinated on content as well. In a particularly brazen example, both pages featured narratives discouraging Armenians from obtaining the Gardasil-IV vaccine, which prevents HPV infection, a major cause of cervical cancer.

While’s anti-Gardasil content appeared in an article published on its website, which was then amplified via the outlet’s Facebook page, Adekvad’s anti-Gardasil content appeared in advertisement form. On March 7, Facebook announced plans to curb vaccine-related misinformation on the platform by rejecting ads that spread misinformation about vaccines.

Adekvad ran a Facebook ad discouraging Armenians from obtaining the Gardasil vaccine. published a similar article about Gardasil with the headline: “What is the Ministry of Health hiding about the Gardasil vaccine? New facts.” (Source: Ադեկվադ, left;, right)

The amount of open-source evidence hinting at a level of coordination between the Adekvad and pages raised an important question: if the pages’ operators cooperated closely on the #SutNikol campaign as well as other initiatives, why would they risk splitting their audience in two by maintaining two separate pages?

An analysis of both pages’ total post count separated by post type may offer some insight. In the roughly 30-day period from March 17-April 19, 2019, the pages focused on different types of content. While almost exclusively shared photos and links, Adekvad devoted itself primarily to sharing video content, with a particular emphasis on Facebook Live videos. In this sense, there appeared to be a “division of labor” between the two pages in terms of post type.

The pages shared different types of content: while primarily shared photos and links, Adekvad devoted the majority of its posts to video content. (Source: @ZKharazian/DFRLab via CrowdTangle)

Simultaneous Ad Campaigns

Both pages ran advertisements, although the content of the ads differed. In addition to the anti-Gardasil ad, the Adekvad page had two additional ads running at the time of this analysis.

Active ads run by the “Adekvad” Facebook page as of April 17, 2019, encouraging Facebook users to follow the group on Telegram, assuring that the group is “not financed by foreign agents” (left); amplifying the #SutNikol spray painting video (center); and amplifying the anti-Gardasil IV vaccine video. (Source: Ադեկվադ) was running two ads of its own, as well.

Active ads run by the Facebook page. Translated from Armenian: “So is there corruption, or not? Follow our page,” accompanied by a video of Pashinyan (left); “The traces of the ‘ghost’ factory: the facts” (right). (Source:

Adekvad and each ran ads that included a call to action to “follow our page,” suggesting that both pages were engaging in active audience-building measures.

Coordination in the Open

In typical cases of coordinated inauthentic activity online, the operators of the online assets go to great lengths, albeit sometimes unsuccessfully, to obscure their coordination. The #SutNikol campaign and other related initiatives from Adekvad and are largely an exception to that rule. In the Armenian online media environment, at least four individuals leveraged their various online assets to coordinate freely and openly. Using Facebook Live, they often placed themselves in the same place at the same time, engaged in a shared pursuit: propagating biased narratives — and sometimes outright false ones — about political, economic, and social issues in Armenia.

Facebook’s own definition of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” refers to instances in which individuals, pages, or groups “work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing.” Many of the actors in this effort did not obscure their identities or their coordination with one another. In at least one case, however — the domain registrant and IP location information for — the DFRLab found evidence that they did. This operation misled the public about the nature of its content and its underlying mission; it may also have been disingenuous about a possible foreign connection.

Register for the DFRLab’s upcoming 360/OS summit, to be held in London on June 20–21. Join us for two days of interactive sessions and join a growing network of #DigitalSherlocks fighting for facts worldwide!