Fake Facebook News Campaigns from Saudi, UAE, and Egypt Target Morocco

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Rabat – Facebook removed multiple pages, groups, and accounts this week for their involvement in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” operations on Facebook and Instagram.

The social media giant identified two unconnected operations, the first originating from the UAE and Egypt, and the second originating from Saudi Arabia.

Both operations were created to mislead social media users about the state of affairs in a number of middle eastern countries, Facebook stated in a press release on August 1.

First operation

Facebook found that the UAE and Egypt based operation was linked to two marketing firms: New Waves in Egypt and Newave in the UAE. The identified accounts impersonated public figures, posed as local news organizations in targeted countries and promoted content about the UAE, Facebook found.

The account owners also posted about local news, politics, elections, and topics including alleged support of terrorist groups by Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s activity in Yemen, the conflict in Libya, successes of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and the independence for Somaliland.

Second operation

According to Facebook, the second operation was linked to “individuals associated with the government of Saudi Arabia.”

In this case, the account owners posted promotional information about the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and successes of the Saudi Armed Forces, particularly during the conflict in Yemen. They also criticized neighboring countries including Iran, Qatar, and Turkey, and called into question the credibility of the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera news network and Amnesty International.

The key targets of the operation were Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan, Facebook says.

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Facebook’s press release did not specify how exactly Morocco was targeted by the operations.

Rising diplomatic tension

Tensions have been rising this year between Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In February, Saudi news channel Al Arabiya aired a documentary questioning Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, after which Rabat recalled Moroccan ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. That same month, Morocco also withdrew from the coalition fighting in Yemen.

In April this year, UAE’s ambassador to Morocco abruptly left the country, causing speculation of diplomatic tensions arising from Morocco’s position in the Gulf Crisis. Morocco refused to side with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Crisis blockade of Qatar. When Saudi Arabia and the UAE severed ties with Qatar on June 6, 2017, closing borders and restricting airspace, Morocco chose to remain neutral.

The “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” displayed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia may be rooted in political tension.