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Facebook removes pages spreading fake news in Bangladesh

  • Published at 07:39 pm December 20th, 2018
Representational photo Bigstock

The pages mimic news outlets, posting pro-government and anti-opposition content

The Facebook authorities on Thursday removed nine Facebook Pages and six Facebook accounts for "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" on the social media platform in Bangladesh.

According to a post on the social media platform's "newsroom," the pages and accounts mimicked independent news outlets and posted pro-government as well as anti-opposition content.

“Today [Thursday] we removed nine Facebook Pages and six Facebook accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on our platform in Bangladesh,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook head of Cybersecurity Policy, in the post 

“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,” he added.

Gleicher further said Facebook’s investigation had revealed that activity on the pages and accounts were linked to individuals associated with the Bangladesh government.

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Among the pages removed, one had 11,900 followers.

“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,” the Facebook official said.

A post on one of the removed pages, which was mimicking online news portal bdnews24.com by using the name “bdsnews24.com,” claimed jailed BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia had expelled party Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. 

In November, clones of several popular news websites in Bangladesh appeared, disseminating outright false political news.

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The Bangla Tribune, Prothom Alo, and BBC Bangla were all duplicated. Meanwhile, the state news agency, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), appeared to have been hacked.

On November 14, Bangla Tribune, a sister concern of the Dhaka Tribune, ran an article alerting readers to its clone, banglatriibune.com. Readers should note that there is an additional “i” in the URL.

Also, on the night of November 16, Prothom Alo decried its own clone prothomaalo.com. 

On Facebook, screenshots of a BBC Bangla clone with the bbc-bangla.com URL soon started making the rounds.

All three clones resembled the originals to the casual observer, but the Bangla fonts used were clues to the sites’ lack of authenticity.

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On November 24, RAB arrested "missing" PhD researcher Enamul Haque Moni, 31, for allegedly administering 22 fake online news portals and spreading anti-government propaganda.

Enamul copied news articles from established news portals and sometimes added anti-government statements, RAB claimed.

RAB also claimed they had found Shibir's involvement in the creation of the fake websites.

"Enamul, a central committee member of Islami Chhatra Shibir, used to clone websites of different news agencies, including daily the Prothom Alo, Bangla Tribune and BBC Bangla, and distort the contents,” RAB officials said.