Structured Electronic Targeting

"Fake Accounts" ... this is how the UAE wages its war on Detainees of Conscience

3 Feb 2022

The report, written by Dr. Marc Owen Jones, an expert on countering disinformation and digital tyranny in social media, revealed details that he was able to identify some 70 active Twitter accounts targeting and working to the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), distort the image of detainees of conscience, was not the first time UAE authorities have resorted to these methods to defame detainees of conscience and morally assassinate them, as evidence shows UAE authorities have been using this method for more than a decade.

Although terms such as "electronic flies" or "electronic committees" became known to people during the diplomatic crisis with Qatar in 2017, they actually appeared more than six years earlier, when they were first used against Emirati human rights defenders and the "UAE94" group.

in general; "Electronic flies" is a term created to describe a group of automated accounts programmed to publish a specific post or tweets with the goal of influencing public opinion or drawing attention to one idea in exchange for marginalizing another that may be of interest. These "bot accounts" are based on software codes that can sometimes be simple, while they become more difficult depending on the type of task they are assigned. For example, the code for an automated account that retweets on Twitter is much simpler than the code that drives a group of automated accounts to tweet by themselves.

In other words, "electronic flies" are a group of fake accounts that are active on social media sites, especially Twitter, and are managed automatically by programmers linked to government and security agencies, so that these accounts post hundreds of thousands of tweets in support of a particular country's propaganda, and also work to spread fabricated news and rumours, and systematic smear campaigns.

The UAE authorities started using this method initially against Emirati opponents and human rights defenders in 2011. At that time, Emirati activist Ahmed Mansour was subjected to a fierce campaign of distortion and harassment because of his defence of human rights, as he was targeted in a smear campaign carried out by accounts known to be pro-government.

In 2012, the UAE authorities’ apparent use of “electronic flies” against Emirati activists and opponents increased, and the number of fake accounts specifically targeting the “UAE 94” group increased in an unprecedented way, and the number of these accounts that were posting false news and rumours reached hundreds.

Most of these accounts focused on distorting the "UAE 94" group, whose members belong to the Emirati reform (Islah) movement, and works continuously to offend its symbols, such as Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed Al Qasimi and Dr. Muhammad Al-Roken.

One of these examples of fake accounts that came to the surface to carry out systematic smear campaign against detainees and (Islah) movement is "Ali Salem UAE", an account that was created at the end of 2011, and it was systematically inciting against detainees and Emirati activists abroad.

This account called on the UAE authorities to prevent visits of detainees under the pretext that they are used for “despicable purposes”, where he wrote at the time: “Let us leave the matter to the judiciary and I wish the competent authorities to prevent visits because it is clear that they are being used for despicable purposes far from their humanitarian and moral goal ".

This account has published hundreds of tweets attacking Emirati detainees of conscience and activists, accusing them of insulting the state and seeking to destroy it.

The incitement practiced by the account of "Ali Salem UAE" against the detainees has reached the level of incitement against their families, describing them as "unpatriotic families." one of his tweets was an answer to a question he was asked about the families of the opponents who are defending the detainees: "It is better to talk about families which supported escalation and have become alienated from the homeland and patriotism, such as the Shaybah family, Ismail Al-Yassi, Al-Mansour, Fouad, Al-Najjar and Al-Atr

It is worth noting that this account has suspended its activity on December 14, 2012, as it stopped tweeting after the arrest of all members of the "UAE 94". it was constantly promoting other fake accounts that did not stop defaming the detainees of conscience, such as the "Shakhsyeah Fattakah/Lethal Personality" and the account of "Rashid bin Seif".

The "Shakhsyeah Fattakah" account also stopped publishing on January 14, 2015, but "Rashid bin Saif" is still active until this moment, and he describes himself as an expert and researcher in political Islam organizations, and he continues to attack detainees of conscience and Emirati activists abroad.

In one of his old tweets, he described a group of Emirati activists abroad that they have no place in the UAE, where he wrote: "Ahmed al-Shaiba and those of his kind from the thugs, such as Muhammad Saqr al-Zaabi, Hamid Jarman, Hamad al-Amri, Ibrahim Al Haram and others, have no place among us."

Of course, these tweets are just a small part of thousands of tweets that were published by these fake accounts, inciting against detainees, describing them as traitors, accusing them of the most horrible words, and calling on the authorities to abuse them and their families.

It seems that the wave of new fake accounts that have begun to appear again and are trying to promote that the detainees are guilty and deserve punishment, is only a new chapter of the defamation tactics practiced by the UAE authorities, and to obfuscate the facts, and these new accounts and campaigns have reappeared after EDAC has revealed The reality of detainees in the UAE and how they are subjected to injustice, and they are mere innocent, and have not committed any sin for which they deserve long prison sentences, which made the UAE authorities revive those accounts, and distort the image of the detainees once again.