Facebook removes multiple accounts from Indonesia, UAE, Egypt and Nigeria

The operation in Indonesia involved a network of over 100 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram posting content in English and Indonesian. (AFP)
Updated 04 October 2019

Facebook removes multiple accounts from Indonesia, UAE, Egypt and Nigeria

  • Operation in Indonesia involved a network of over 100 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram
  • Facebook earlier removed accounts from Iraq, Ukraine, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand, Honduras and Israel

Facebook has announced it removed hundreds of pages, groups and accounts on its platforms for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” linked to three operations in Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Nigeria.
The operation in Indonesia involved a network of over 100 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram posting content in English and Indonesian either in support or criticizing the West Papua independence movement, which is active in the country’s restive easternmost region of Papua.
“This was a network of pages designed to appear like local media organizations and advocacy organizations,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s Global Lead for Threat Disruption.
He told Reuters that his team, which had been monitoring Indonesia in light of increasing tensions in Papua, had tracked the false accounts, which would disseminate content, buy ads, and drive people to other sites, to an Indonesian media firm called InsightID.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach the firm for comment.
There has been a spike in protests and unrest since late August in Papua, which suffered some of its worst bloodshed in decades in September, with 33 people killed and scores injured.
Researchers had independently warned in September that there had been a rise of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts on Papua, with some of the fake accounts posting pro-government content.
Agranovich said Facebook also removed fake accounts related to two other unconnected networks in the Middle East and Africa.
One, according to Facebook, was based out of Egypt, but targeted the rest of the region by posting content in support of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, as well as criticism of Qatar, Iran, Turkey and Yemen’s separatist movement.
The executive said this operation used fake accounts “to masquerade as local media organizations in a variety of those countries ... and amplify the content they were posting.”
According to Agranovich, Facebook found evidence some of the pages had been purchased, with regular changing ownerships, as well as deep links to Egyptian newspaper El Fagr, “which is known for its sensationalistic content.”
As a result of the investigation, Facebook has also removed El Fagr’s official media pages from its platforms, he said.
Reuters was not able to immediately contact El Fagr.
Facebook said the third network, which it tracked to three marketing firms in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Nigeria, involved fake accounts which spread on content on topics like UAE’s activity in Yemen and the Iran nuclear deal.
The social media giant has recently been cracking down on such accounts after coming under fire in the last few years for its self-admitted sluggishness in developing tools to combat extremist content and propaganda operations.
Earlier this year, it removed accounts from Iraq, Ukraine, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand, Honduras and Israel.


Turkish court upholds verdict against 12 ex-staff of opposition newspaper

Updated 21 November 2019

Turkish court upholds verdict against 12 ex-staff of opposition newspaper

  • 14 employees of Cumhuriyet were sentenced in April 2018 to various jail terms on terrorism charges
  • The case drew global outrage over press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court on Thursday upheld its conviction of 12 former employees of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper despite a higher court ruling, a lawyer for the newspaper said.
The court acquitted a 13th defendant, journalist Kadri Gursel, due to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest, said the lawyer, Tora Pekin.
In a case that drew global outrage over press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan, 14 employees of Cumhuriyet — one of the few remaining voices critical of the government — were sentenced in April 2018 to various jail terms on terrorism charges.
They were accused of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front militant groups, as well as the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says organized a 2016 failed coup. Gulen denies any involvement.
The Cumhuriyet staff have been in and out of jail for the duration of their trials. The 14th defendant, Cumhuriyet accountant Emre Iper, was released last month and his case is still under court review.
The Court of Cassation, Turkey’s high court of appeals, had ruled in September for the 13 defendants to be acquitted, with the exception of journalist and politician Ahmet Sik. The court said Sik should be tried for a different crime.
The case of the 12 defendants will now be re-evaluated by the Court of Cassation, Pekin said.
“With the Court of Cassation ruling (in September), we thought this endless arbitrariness and injustice were ending. But we understood in court today that it wasn’t so,” said Pekin.
Since the failed coup, authorities have jailed 77,000 people pending trial, while 150,000, including civil servants, judges, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs. Some 150 media outlets have also been closed.
A global press watchdog said on Tuesday more than 120 journalists were still being held in Turkey’s jails, a global record.
Turkey’s Western allies have voiced concern over the scale of the crackdown. Rights groups accuse Erdogan of using the coup as a pretext to quash dissent.