Analysts uncovered 69 “inauthentic accounts” on Facebook and Twitter in Bangladesh, 18 of which were centered on an alleged network in the capital, Dhaka
Suspicious fake social media accounts are pumping out pro-Qatar World Cup posts that experts believe could be a bot farm making a concerted attempt to “drown out” negative comments about the tournament.
Analysts have uncovered 69 “inauthentic accounts” on Facebook and Twitter in Bangladesh, 18 of which are concentrated in an alleged network in the capital, Dhaka. Posts from the suspicious accounts were seen by 19,000 profiles in one month alone.
These accounts were found to spread positive posts about the World Cup, with some expressing support for teams they claimed had chosen not to protest Qatar’s poor human rights record.
Forty-two real accounts were spotted in the same space, which experts say “suggests a bot farm” where real and fake accounts tend to interact and fuel each other.
Cyabra, hired by Elon Musk to identify spam and bot accounts on Twitter, examined 13,000 Facebook and Twitter accounts worldwide between October 26 and November 12, 2022. It found that 15 percent were inauthentic, while 43.8 percent of all comments scanned during the period were deemed to have been written by inauthentic profiles.
The company determines inauthenticity by tracking “non-human behavior” on social media, such as B. Interactions with other accounts, posting times – e.g. B. Posts for 23 hours a day – creation date and languages used.
In a Facebook post claiming that the Brazilian soccer team would not take any pro-LGBT+ action during the World Cup, an allegedly fake account commented that it was “proud to be a fan of Brazil”. Three other accounts posted an identical message, with Cyabra saying it’s very likely they were also sophisticated fake accounts.
Another “fake” account from Bangladesh shared a video of the Brazilian team dance.
No available evidence suggests that the Brazilian team as a whole actually took this stance, and some Brazilian players have previously publicly championed LGBT+ rights.
Other accounts flagged as fake by Cyabra shared information about the World Cup teams and the excitement leading up to the tournament with a post reading “Nine days left to Fifa World Cup Qatar” with a heart emoji.
A spokesman for Cyabra said: “The existence of bot farms is not new, but they can be incredibly effective at disinformation or at techniques that drown out the noise. One of the tactics we’ve seen at the World Cup isn’t spreading fake news, but rather amplifying certain narratives and content that we call ‘Drowning the Noise’.”
The World Cup drew controversy, with host country Qatar widely criticized for its poor human rights record.
Particular attention was paid to the country’s alleged repression of LGBT+ people, with a I Investigation found officers used fake profiles on dating apps to trap gay men and, in some cases, raped them. Just two weeks before the start of the tournament, Qatar’s World Cup ambassador described homosexuality as “damage to the mind”.
Unions and human rights groups have also long raised concerns about workers’ rights in Qatar, where more than 6,500 workers are said to have died since the country won its World Cup bid. Qatar insists huge improvements have been made and it is now at the forefront of workers’ rights in the region.
Professor Anthony Glees, Professor Emeritus at the University of Buckingham and founder of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies, said that “social media use has changed the way public opinion can be formed and engineered for specific ends”. .
“It allows individuals to be heard and listened to, it gives individuals attraction and it connects groups of individuals who may be small in one country but seem to be a very big force globally,” he said I. “It works on the principle that a rolling snowball becomes an avalanche.”
“It allows for the dissemination of views whose purpose is not necessarily to get people to vote one way or another – although that can be an advantage – but more generally to confuse and confuse public opinion. Once fake news is spread, it creates insecurity that can be further exploited by people trying to subvert and subvert the democratic process. From that confusion, you have an opportunity to advance your own agenda.”
He added: “It’s frightening because 50 years ago public opinion was formed by elites who were easy to identify. They knew who they were: the great universities, high-profile MPs, or whatever. But the internet and social media have rendered these traditional opinion-forming elites … obsolete.”
Although the bot farm could not be traced back to Qatar, Professor Glees said it would be “completely logical that the Qataris would use some of their amazing money to fund a network of experts in Pakistan, Bangladesh or wherever that would do so.” churning out bots that could influence public opinion” to promote their values.
The Qatar government and Fifa did not respond to a request for comment.