Tunisia: Comms firm UReputation accused of coordinating Facebook disinformation campaigns to influence African elections

In June 2020, NGO Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) published a report into the operations of UReputation, a Tunisia-based digital communications firm. The company's report found that the company had created a network of inauthentic Facebook pages that targeted people in 10 African countries and were intended to influence multiple African presidential campaigns, including in Togo and in Cote d'Ivoire.

Facebook issued a statement and removed these assets "for violating the company's policy against foreign interference", after conducting its own investigation into these assets (see below). 

DFRLab has conducted previous investigations into how digital communications companies profit from enaging in inauthentic behaviour on social media platforms. This activity, referred to as "disinformation as a service", demonstrates how communications companies are increasingly involved in disinformation campaigns. In contrast to other disinformation campaigns, this case is notable for appearing to be primarily for-profit motive.

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre were unable to contact UReputation to invite them to respond to the investigations.]

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"DFRLabs : Une entreprise tunisienne a influencé la présidentielle via les réseaux sociaux", 6 Juin 2020

Une entreprise tunisienne du nom de UReputation a mené une campagne digitale sophistiquée impliquant plusieurs sites web et les plateformes des réseaux sociaux pour influencer l’élection présidentielle de 2019 en Tunisie, a révélé Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) dans un rapport intitulé « Opération Carthage » et publié le vendredi 5 juin...

 

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作者: Facebook

Networks Removed in May, 2020:

  1. Tunisia: We removed 446 Pages, 182 Facebook accounts, 96 Groups, 60 events and 209 Instagram accounts. This activity originated in Tunisia and focused on Francophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This network used fake accounts to masquerade as locals in countries they targeted, post and like their own content, drive people to off-platform sites, and manage Groups and Pages posing as independent news entities. Some Pages engaged in deceptive audience building tactics changing their focus from non-political to political themes including substantial name and admin changes over time. We found this network as part of our internal investigation which linked this activity to a Tunisia-based PR firm Ureputation.

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作者: Atlantic Council

A Tunisia-based company operated a sophisticated digital campaign involving multiple social media platforms and websites in an attempt to influence the country’s 2019 presidential election, as well as other recent elections in Africa... the DFRLab uncovered dozens of online assets with connections to Tunisian digital communications firm UReputation. On June 5, 2020, after conducting its own investigation, Facebook announced it had taken down more than 900 assets affiliated with the UReputation operation... 

the operation exerted its influence in multiple African presidential campaigns, including supporting Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé’s February 2020 reelection campaign, as well as former Ivorian President Henri Konan Bédié’s campaign for the upcoming October 2020 election in Côte d’Ivoire.

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