An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: On April 2, Twitter took down a pro-United Arab Emirates network of accounts that was pushing propaganda about the coronavirus pandemic and criticizing Turkey's military intervention in Libya. Previously tied to marketing firms in the region, parts of this network were removed by Facebook and Twitter last year. The network was made up of roughly 9,000 accounts, according to disinformation research firm DFRLab and independent researcher Josh Russell. Although it promoted narratives in line with the political stances of the governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, its origins were unclear.
Many Twitter handles contained alphanumeric characters instead of names, and many did not post photos. Accounts that did have profile pictures often used images of Indian models. One video pushed by the fake accounts voiced support for the Chinese government during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in China in February. The video remains online, but lost over 4,000 retweets and likes after the takedown. The video now has four retweets.
The bot network also amplified a video of a woman thanking the government of the UAE for transporting Yemeni students out of Wuhan, China. Today, that video, which is also still online, went from having nearly 4,500 retweets to having 70. Spreading propaganda about the coronavirus didn't seem to have been the network's focus. The accounts, some of which posed as journalists and news outlets, amplified an article about the UAE government's disapproval of the Libyan prime minister and boosted criticism of Turkey's support of militias in Libya.
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