Saturday, December 22, 2018

Facebook exposes Bangladesh govt fake news

Bangladesh's Awami League government has been publishing fake news for years, but this week Facebook and Twitter exposed it for doing so.

On December 20, 2018, Facebook published a press release titled,  "Taking Down Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior in Bangladesh". It stated:
"Today we removed nine Facebook Pages and six Facebook accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on our platform in Bangladesh. Through our investigation, which began in part based on a tip from Graphika, a threat intelligence company that we work with, we discovered that these Pages were designed to look like independent news outlets and posted pro-government and anti-opposition content. Our investigation indicates that this activity is linked to individuals associated with the Bangladesh government."
It went onto say: 
This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook under our misrepresentation policy because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve found:
Facebook published details of three fake news stories published on these Facebook pages:
  • "By the authority vested in her, BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has expelled the general secretary of BNP Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. In a video message from prison, she personally alluded to this. From the party’s headquarters, BNP’s Senior Joint Secretary Ruhul Kabir Rizvi published a video message from Khaleda Zia."
  • "Khaleda Zia has bought herself a prize from Canada by paying one crore [10 million] takas [Bangladeshi currency]. Now the prize-givers are in a quandry."
  • BNP is divided into two clear factions along with Zia-Rehman-Jamat. One side is ready to dive into participating in the elections and the other half which is devoid of Khaleda Zia- Tareq Rehman-Jamat is busy creating unrest during the elections
On the same day, Twitter also published a tweet which stated:
"Working with our industry peers we identified & suspended a very small number of accounts originating from Bangladesh for engaging in coordinated platform manipulation. Based on our initial analysis, it appears that some of these accounts may have ties to state-sponsored actors."
The Bangladesh government propensity for publishing fake stories is well known. Often they use mainstream pro-Awami League papers and news websites to do so - Bangladesh Pratidin, Ittefaq or Bangla Tribune are just a few. 

I personally have been targeted by these kinds of stories - totally fake stories alleging all kinds of stories about me:

- in April 2016, bdpanorama published a series of made up allegations against me, claiming that I had received £50,000 from the opposition BNP, resulting in a 13,000 facebook shares;

- in August 2016, the TerroristObserver published further absurd allegations linking me to the Holey Artisan  Cafe militant attack, and

- in September 2016, the abcnewsreportsnow published more fictions about me 

These are all almost certainly government organised/sponsored websites, and news reports.

There are so many other examples of this, but recently the renown photographer Shahidul Alam, detained by the police after criticising the government, was subject to fake stories in pro-government newspapers seeking to justify his detention.

Whilst the Awami League government organises fake stories, defamatory of anyone who is remotely seen as a threat to the government, it prosecutes just about anyone who writes critically of the government.


Other 2018 Elections posts

- Dec 7:   Forced out, but service resumes
- Dec 7:   Disappearances before 2014 election
- Dec 9:   Exclusive: Results of Confidential Poll revealed
- Dec 11: Bangladesh's "Closing Democratic Space"

- Dec 13: Fear and Awami League leaders
- Dec 13: Challenging the Orthodox View
- Dec 15: Full Pre-election polls for download
- Dec 21: Why the Government is fixing the election
- Dec 22: Sajeeb Joy's poll half-truths
- Dec 22: Facebook exposes government's fake news
- Dec 23: A disgrace of a website

- Dec 25: Awami League's new crisis of legitimacy

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