Uganda News

Why did we close Ugandan government officials’ accounts? 

Since early 2021, accessing Facebook through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has been the sole means to do so in Uganda.

Since early 2021, accessing Facebook through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has been the sole means to do so in Uganda.

In response to Facebook’s decision to remove a number of Ugandan government officials’ accounts, the government blocked the social media giant in the country during the previous general election.

In its transparency report, Facebook stated that it has deactivated Ugandan pro-Museveni accounts for utilizing duplicate accounts in the run-up to the presidential election.

According to the same report, 426 accounts were deleted in total, with 210 pages, 62 groups, and 153 Instagram accounts being erased as well.

The accounts that were banned were accused of engaging in Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CIB), which Facebook defined as coordinated efforts to distort public debate for a strategic aim.

Facebook goes on to say that the effort relied heavily on false accounts.
But, under this CIB, what did the accounts that were removed actually do?

In an interview with the African Institute for Investigative Journalism (AIIJ), Allan Cheboi, the senior manager of investigations at Code for Africa, an organization that collaborated with others, said that when they looked at the images on the Pesa Check data base, they noticed a couple of false images being shared in a coordinated manner using the hashtag #stoghooliganism.

“So they were republishing things and telling people, ‘This is what’s going on in the country; we need to tell people to halt hooliganism,'” says the source. Even as an investigator, you realize there’s an issue since this photo isn’t recent, and someone must be promoting this hashtag,” Cheboi added.

Cheboi explained that they gathered the data behind the hashtag, as well as all the posts mentioning those hashtags on Twitter and Facebook, and created a network map to figure out who was behind it and when the posts were made.

He claimed that these accounts were posting and posing as if they didn’t know one other, but then magnifying each other.
Cheboi’s team took on the role of the whistleblower, informing Facebook about the hashtag.

According to the released research, Facebook appears to have discovered even more accounts that they had not spotted previously.

According to Facebook’s report, they validated the coordination and ascribed some of it to Uganda’s Ministry of ICT.

Cheboi stated that they may never know how Facebook arrived to the conclusion that the accounts were linked to the ICT ministry because certain of their processes are confidential and they are unable to reveal much information about them.

ICT Minister Chris Baryomunsi told NBS TV earlier this year that Facebook listened to misinformation from their “detractors,” and as a result, the government decided to prohibit them from operating in the country.

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