Muslim Brotherhood, IS bots exploit Egypt protest hashtags



Wed, 25 Sep 2019 - 05:11 GMT


Wed, 25 Sep 2019 - 05:11 GMT

ET: Academic Marc Owen Jones also noted a huge number of newly-created accounts spamming protest hashtags.

ET: Academic Marc Owen Jones also noted a huge number of newly-created accounts spamming protest hashtags.

CAIRO – 25 September 2019: After enduring continuous losses, extremist groups have turned to “digital-jihad” to carry out their devious schemes to bring down the stability of and security of countries through “dirty” online campaigns that only aim to sow discord and chaos.

In a report, BBC Monitoring has noted that pro-Islamic-State groups have been using bot accounts to urge Egyptians to abandon the "futile" protests and to support the jihadist group instead.

Other analysts say that huge numbers of tweets have been sent from previously dormant accounts as well as newly created ones in crude attempts to dominate the conversation. It's not known who was behind these spam campaigns, or why.

A pro-IS Telegram account encourages users to flood a Twitter protest hashtag

According to the report, Writer Erin Gallagher noted a large number of fake accounts posting near-identical content onto Egypt protest hashtags.

Her research found that up to 20% of Tweets using the Arabic "Tahrir Square now" hashtag originated from bot accounts posting via the IFTTT application.

If This Then That, also known as IFTTT, is a free web-based service to create chains of simple conditional statements, allowing bots to repeat the same hashtag at certain times.

The BBC Monitoring analysis shows that accounts aligned with Islamic State group have sought to capitalize on the protests by repeatedly posting propaganda videos onto trending hashtags.

At least 20 pro-IS accounts were observed reposting Islamic State videos onto Egypt protest hashtags.

One video, which described President Sisi as a "tyrant" allied with "Crusaders" (ie the West) and accused him of killing young Egyptians, was posted hourly by an account (@afaqq200) using a third-party automation service.

The account used trending Arabic hashtags "Leave Sisi" and "Tahrir Square" to gain traction, and it and other accounts involved in the campaign have since been suspended.

Jihadist social media is largely concentrated on Telegram after being forced off both Twitter and Facebook. But pro-IS accounts invariably spring up occasionally to take advantage of current events, the users knowing that they will have limited longevity.

The accounts used in this case appear to have been long-dormant ones hijacked by pro-IS users.

Suspicious accounts used IFTTT to post large volumes of spam

Furthermore, drawing on observations made by US-based tech researcher Lobna Gouda, Ms. Gallagher pointed out that many of the spam accounts were newly-created and "used western-sounding, female first and last names, others used a series of letters such as IIIIIIIIIlII12 — with a number on the end. They were not subtle."

Gouda noticed the fake accounts and denounced them earlier in the day on Saturday.


Gallagher points out that it's impossible to tell who was behind the pro-IS tweets "...but someone is trying to disrupt the digital trends that correspond to the protests in Egypt," she wrote.

"The protesters do not know who is behind the campaign, and it's entirely possible that it's black propaganda not associated at all with the protests, but designed to discredit and malign the protesters by attempting to link them to terrorists".

Academic Marc Owen Jones also noted a huge number of newly-created accounts spamming protest hashtags.

Prof Jones's analysis shows that nearly 1,500 of 9,713 unique accounts posting to a single hashtag had been created in September 2019. He says that, in a typical sample size, new accounts would account for less than one percent of posts.

Instead, he points out, they have been responsible for 378,000 tweets, with one account (now furiously retweeting random content, presumably to cover its true purpose) having tweeted nearly 13,000 times since its recent creation.

The vast majority of these new accounts failed to disclose their location, Prof Jones says.

Egypt Today reported in an earlier report that

Terrorist Muslim Brotherhood web trolls have been attempting to stage mass protests across Egypt through sowing discord and spreading fake news and lies about key state figures.

The grand Muslim Brotherhood scheme included the creation of ordinary Facebook groups and pages to mobilize as many citizens and sympathizers to suddenly change their names and start calling to bring down the state and demolish all signs of progress and achievement under President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

A voice message believed to be recorded by fugitive Hani Sabry, allegedly a Muslim Brotherhood "terrorist" group member, has asked others who he called "youth" to send him links of Facebook accounts, as part of a systematic campaign attempting to oust the president.

In other news, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri condemned the incitement of Turkey-linked media and Al-Jazeera TV channel against the Egyptian state by calling on citizens to participate in demonstrations promoting chaos.

In an interview with Adib, Shoukri described the calls of incitement as unacceptable, saying that they would go down the drain and would not receive any kind of response inside the country.

Shoukri considered that this incitement reflects the hatred for all the achievements of Egypt during the past five years.

He said that he responded to the questions of the local media concerning Al-Jazeera's claims about the existence of demonstrations in Egypt, adding that he called on local media crews in Egypt to monitor all squares and ensure the validity of the allegations of the Qatari channel and the channels linked to the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

"Yesterday, Al-Jazeera acted unprofessionally, in a way that causes great confusion, and expresses hatred for all what has been achieved," Shoukri stated.

Egypt has designated the Muslim Brotherhood group as terrorist since late in 2013, after former President Mohamed Morsi, who also served as head of the "terrorist" group, was ousted. Morsi died in June this year after he collapsed in court during his trial.



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