EXPOSED!!! How Powerful Forces Used Facebook To Rig The 2019 Elections For Buhari, Against Atiku

By Post-Nigeria: May 18, 2019 16:44

EXPOSED!!! How Powerful Forces Used Facebook To Rig The 2019 Elections For Buhari, Against Atiku

The Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, was the target of some Facebook accounts operated by Archimedes Group, an Israeli Political Consulting and Lobbying Firm, during the campaign for the 2019 Presidential election.

Facebook’s Head of Cyber-Security Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, announced at a Press Conference, that the Social Media giant removed a total of 265 accounts, pages, groups, and events, involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour, which aimed to influence elections in Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Niger, and Tunisia, along with some activity in Latin America and South-East Asia. 

Gleicher disclosed that some of the suspected activities were linked to Tel-Aviv-based Archimedes, as its network was discovered to have used affected accounts to run pages, disseminate their content, and artificially increase engagement.

They also represented themselves as locals, including local news organisations, and published allegedly leaked information about Politicians.

“The Page Administrators and Account owners frequently posted about political news, including topics like elections in various countries, Candidate views and criticism of political opponents”, Gleicher said.

According to a report by the United States Think Tank, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, an analysis of the affected accounts revealed that many of them focused on the February 2019, Nigerian elections.

In the February 23 Presidential election, the incumbent, President Muhammad Buhari, was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, winning by 15,191,847 votes, to Atiku’s 11,262,978.
 
Atiku has however, filed a petition before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, to contest the results, and hearing commenced this week.

It noted that the affected accounts appeared to have launched a sustained campaign against Atiku’s candidacy, while rooting for Buhari to win a second term.

The “Make Nigeria Worse Again” Facebook group, depicted Atiku Abubakar as a Hollywood movie villain, Darth Vader.

“Make Nigeria Worse Again”, one of the deleted pages, had a banner image of Atiku depicted as Darth Vader, a notorious fictional villain in the Star Wars movie franchise. The page’s name is also a mischievous play on Atiku’s campaign slogan to “Get Nigeria Working Again”.

DFRLab also discovered another page named, “Imagine a Nigeria without Buhari”, which eulogised the President’s first term achievements, and also attacked the record of Atiku’s PDP, when it controlled the Federal Government for 16 years.

The “Imagine a Nigeria without Buhari” group, suggested that Atiku Abubakar’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will kill Nigeria, if the former Vice President was elected.

Another page: “Team Atiku For President”, was also suspected to have been a honeytrap to suck in Atiku supporters, by appearing to support him and then target them with anti-Atiku content later, possibly diverting them to the “Make Nigeria Worse Again” page.

Another group of pages were discovered to have focused on the bloody elections in Rivers State, with a particular page named, “Rivers Violence Watch”, consistently posting content that targeted Nyesom Wike, a PDP Governor.

The “Rivers Violence Watch” group, made numerous posts that targeted the State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

On its official About page, which has now been taken down, Archimedes said that it has taken significant roles in many political and public campaigns; among them are Presidential elections, and other social media projects all over the world.

It had previously claimed on the page, that it uses “every tool and takes every advantage available, in order to change reality according to client’s wishes”. 
 
This description of its operation was deleted following the Facebook announcement.

Facebook accused Archimedes of repeatedly violating its misrepresentation policy, as well as other policies, such as engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.

“This organisation and all its subsidiaries are now banned from Facebook, and it has been issued a cease and desist letter”, Gleicher announced.

65 Facebook accounts, 161 Pages, 23 Groups, 12 events, and four Instagram accounts, were removed and blocked from the Social Media platform.

About 2.8 million accounts followed one or more of the affected Pages, while about 5,500 accounts joined at least one of the Groups, and around 920 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.

Gleicher also revealed that around $812,000 was spent by the group for ads on Facebook, paid for in Brazilian reals, Israeli shekel, and US dollars. The first ad ran in December 2012, and the most recent ad ran in April 2019.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity, because we do not want our services to be used to manipulate people. We are taking down these Pages and accounts, based on their behaviour, not the content they posted.

“As in other cases involving coordinated inauthentic behaviour, the individuals behind this activity coordinated with one another to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing, and that was the basis for our action”, Gleicher explained.

Even though Facebook could not authoritatively determine Archimedes’ motives, Gleicher told Journalists that it may be commercial or political, or for some other strategic goal.

Facebook has in recent times, been criticised for being pivotal to the spread of fake news and foreign interference, with its lax policies that allow Politicians buy ads that can widen the audience for them to push their sometimes, sinister agendas.

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