SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 20 January 2022, Thursday |

Belarusian KGB set up fake social media accounts to inflame migrant crisis, Meta says

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has connected the Belarusian KGB to the creation of dozens of bogus social media profiles acting as journalists and activists in order to incite a migration crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland.

According to a Meta report published on Wednesday, it has terminated 41 Facebook accounts, five Facebook Groups, and four Instagram profiles for breaking its rules on “coordinated inauthentic conduct.”

According to the report, the bogus identities were used to criticize the actions of Polish authorities, including disseminating charges that Polish border guards used force and intimidation against refugees.

“These fictional persons tweeted criticism of Poland in English, Polish, and Kurdish, including images and videos of Polish border guards purportedly abusing refugees’ rights, and contrasted Poland’s treatment of migrants to that of other nations,” according to the study.

“Despite the fact that the perpetrators sought to disguise their names and cooperation, our research discovered linkages to the Belarusian KGB,” it claimed.

The Belarusian KGB did not respond to requests for comment.

Regulators, legislators, and workers throughout the world have been putting pressure on Facebook to address misuse of its services. It told Reuters in September that it was becoming more active in taking down organized groups of real-user accounts engaged in some detrimental actions on its platform, such as attempting to influence national elections.

European Union countries have accused Belarus of creating a migrant crisis on the bloc’s eastern borders by encouraging thousands from the Middle East and Africa to try to cross into Poland and Lithuania, in revenge for Western sanctions on Minsk.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko denies doing so and pinned the blame for the crisis on the EU.

Rights groups say at least 13 people have died as migrants have camped in freezing conditions at the border. The three EU countries that border Belarus have defended their approach of pushing migrants back without individually assessing their cases or granting them a realistic chance to claim asylum as guaranteed under international humanitarian law.

The Meta report said the company separately had removed 31 Facebook accounts, four Groups and four Instagram accounts that were believed to have originated in Poland and targeted an audience in Belarus and Iraq.

The report did not link the accounts to the Polish state but said they were intended to discourage migrants from trying to get into the EU.

“These fake personas claimed to be sharing their own negative experiences of trying to get from Belarus to Poland and posted about migrants’ difficult lives in Europe,” it said. “They also posted about Poland’s strict anti-migrant policies and anti-migrant neo-Nazi activity in Poland.”