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Facebook accused of foreign electoral interference for banning Ugandan accounts

President Donald Trump has long insisted that he is being singled out by social media giants while others have exhibited similar behavior. He now has a dubious ally in the fight against tech bosses after scores of Ugandan government-linked Facebook pages shut down ahead of a major presidential election on Thursday, which officials say could turn the tide of the day. history in this country.

Facebook said it closed the accounts, some managed by the Information and Communications Ministry, as well as the personal accounts of government officials, as they were part of a network that worked together to target popstar-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, which passes by Bobi Wine.

The 38-year-old opposition leader is getting closer to President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. During Museveni’s 35-year tenure, the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill passed the penalty of homosexuality in prison to death.

After the closure of Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to Museveni’s senior press secretary Don Wanyama, Wanyama accused the company of seeking to influence the election. “Shame on the foreign forces who think they can help and establish puppet leadership over Uganda by disabling the online accounts of NRM (ruling party) supporters,” he wrote on Twitter, which did not has not stifled so far. “You will not remove President Kaguta Museveni.”

Speaking from his isolated ranch over the weekend, Museveni said closing the accounts amounted to foreign interference and Wine was a foreign interest agent promoting homosexuality. “He receives a lot of encouragement from foreigners and homosexuals,” he said. “Homosexuals are very happy with Bobi Wine. I think they even send him support.

Several Wine supporters and collaborators have been killed or arrested and the opponent has been banned from campaigning and repeatedly beaten on the pretext of violating COVID-19 restrictions. Government-backed Facebook pages have accused Wine of attempting an insurgency. In November, 54 people were killed by security forces after rioting by Wine supporters after he was taken into custody.

By shutting down Facebook pages linked to the information and communications technology ministry, Facebook has raised further questions about when it should step in to shut down a mode of communication to voters. “With the looming elections in Uganda, we have acted quickly to investigate and remove this network,” Facebook said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Africa’s Facebook networks said the pages exhibited coordinated inauthentic behavior, a term coined by Facebook that they said occurs when “groups of pages or people work together to mislead others about who they are or what they do ”.

Facebook said the network included mirror accounts and fake profiles as well as private accounts and government-run official pages, all of which were used to amplify certain messages.

“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that have engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior) to target public debate ahead of the elections,” said Kezia Anim-Addo, Head of the Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior. Facebook communication for sub-Saharan Africa, in a statement. “They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, pretend to be users, re-share posts in groups to make them more popular than they were. were. “

More than 100 of these networks working to manipulate public debate have been suppressed around the world since 2017, the statement said.

In December, Facebook deleted pages operated from Russia and France, including one linked to the French military on charges of interference with operations in Africa. In October, Facebook shut down a conspiracy page run by a New Zealand political party accused of spreading false information about COVID-19 ahead of the country’s elections.

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