Twitter said Friday it shut down thousands of accounts worldwide for spreading misinformation, including some artificially amplifying pro-Saudi messaging as part of a regional propaganda war.
The move affected pro-Saudi accounts coming from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates directed at Qatar and Yemen, Twitter said, as well as others from China seeking to sow discord among protesters in Hong Kong.
Additional fake accounts were suspended in Spain and Ecuador, Twitter’s safety team said.
The move is the latest in a series of actions by social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter cracking down on manipulation, often by state-controlled entities disguising their identities.
It follows similar moves by Facebook last month removing fake accounts based in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for posting misinformation about Middle East hotspots and others involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” focused on Hong Kong.
Twitter removed 273 accounts working in concert in “a multi-faceted information operation” to target Saudi rivals Qatar and Iran among other countries, as well as amplify pro-Saudi government messaging.
These accounts were “created and managed” DotDev, a technology company based in the UAE and Egypt. DotDev did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, has enforced an economic boycott of Qatar since June 2017, accusing the Gulf nation of links to extremist groups and being too close to Iran.
Twitter also notably shut down the account of Saudi royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani.
The close confidante of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who ran Riyadh’s media center and managed an electronic army unabashedly defending its image, was implicated in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 but was never formally charged.
Twitter also suspended a separate group of 4,258 accounts operating from the UAE, with messaging mainly targeting Qatar and Yemen.
“These accounts were often employing false personae and tweeting about regional issues,” such as the war in Yemen and main agitators in the conflict, Iran-linked Huthi rebels, Twitter’s statement said.
The UAE is a key partner in the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Huthis in Yemen in a five-year conflict that has devastated the country.
Six accounts linked to Saudi Arabia’s state-run media were also flagged by Twitter for being “engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government,” Twitter said.
Twitter noted the accounts had posed as “independent journalistic outlets while tweeting narratives favourable to the Saudi government”.
Twitter identified 4,302 accounts based in China “attempting to sow discord about the protest movement in Hong Kong.”
This follows the identification in August of more than 200,000 fake accounts in China engaged in fuelling public discord in Hong Kong.
Twitter and Facebook are both banned in mainland China.
Hong Kong has seen months of unrest as citizens protest what they say is an erosion of freedoms under Beijing’s tightening grip.
While Beijing has not intervened directly, its powerful media machine has steadily ramped up a war of words.
The moves to silence Chinese-run accounts on Twitter and Facebook were greeted with protests and claims of hypocrisy in the mainland, with posters taking to the authorized — and tightly controlled — Weibo platform.
Twitter said it removed 259 accounts operated by the conservative Partido Popular that were “active for a relatively short period, and consisted primarily of fake accounts engaging in spamming or retweet behaviour to increase engagement.
DCI summons 11 over Sh38bn Itare Dam scam
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations has summoned 11 people among them former directors of Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency ( RVWWDA) over graft in Sh38bn Itare Dam project.
Among those summoned to appear at the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road on Monday to record statements over the multi-billion dam scam is Ms Lydia Ntimama, daughter of former Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama and several senior government officials.
In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, the DCI said: “The DCI is currently investigating allegations into the misappropriation of public funds in the construction of the Itare Dam. We have summoned the individuals to record statements on December 16.”
“The following listed suspects who are connected with the ongoing investigations are hereby compelled to report to the DCI Headquarters Serious Crime Block B on Monday December 16, 2019 without fail,” the statement added.
Among those summoned include Christine Ndoigo, Chesaina Bartonjo, David Kinuthia, Julius Lamaoni, Nemuel Machuki, Ewoi Lochom, Samuel Kaaleng, all former directors of the Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency.
Others under probe are Engineer FK Kyengo, Barrack Amolo and David Yatich, all government officials in the Ministry of Water and Sanitation.
This comes a week after Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui was grilled by the DCI over the failed multi-billion dam projects in the Rift Valley.
According to sources, the questions mostly dwelt on advance payments made to broke Italian firm CMC di Ravenna by the Water ministry, even when it was clear that the contractor was already having problems delivering the Kimwarer and Arror dam projects. Ms Ndoigo, confirmed to the Nation that she had received the DCI summon.
“I have received the DCI summon and l am already on my way to Nairobi to record my statement tomorrow,” she said.
Itare Dam, a flagship Jubilee administration water supply projects under Vision 2030, was supposed to yield 100,000 cubic metres of water per day.
Italian company, CMC di Ravenna, that was constructing the dam filed for bankruptcy in a court in Ravenna, Italy. The construction of the project that was to be completed in 2021.
According to the RVWWDA, the construction of mega dam projected to end the perennial problem of water shortage in the South Rift region by serving a population of 1 million people in Kuresoi, Molo, Njoro, Rongai and Nakuru Town, Kericho and Baringo counties.
On July 15, 2015, the National Treasury signed a loan agreement with Italian financiers BNP Paribas Fortis and Intesa Sanpaolo for the project’s funding.
Taxpayers have paid Sh11 billion for the project, which stalled at just 30 per cent.
Thika Kisiiki village flood victims call on govt to relocate them
Hundreds of flood victims of Kisiiki village on the shores of Athi River, Thika East Sub County have called for government intervention to fast-track their relocation to plots it gave them in 2017.
The call comes amid floods that have ravaged the area leaving them homeless. Over sixty households have been displaced after Athi River burst its banks.
The allocation of the plots to the farmers and fishermen was disrupted after some people went to court blocking the process claiming ownership of the land.
They have since been forced to continue living in the area despite experiencing floods each rainy season.
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Thika East Deputy County Commissioner Thomas Sankei, however, refuted claims by the residents saying they refused to relocate despite the government setting aside some piece of land for the exercise.
He said the residents rely on the river water for irrigation and fishing, thus relocation would affect their livelihoods.
Thika West MP Patrick Wainaina promised to follow up the matter to its logical conclusion to ensure that all residents get some plots.
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Wavinya: Twitter account used to attack King Kaka not mine : The Standard
Former Machakos Gubernatorial candidate Wavinya Ndeti has disowned a twitter account used to attack Rapper King Kaka over his new hit song Wajing Nyinyi. [File, Standard]
Former Machakos Gubernatorial candidate Wavinya Ndeti has dismissed reports doing round on social media that she has condemned Rapper King Kanga over his latest hit ‘Wajinga nyinyi’.
Speaking to Standard Digital on phone, the former Kathiani MP disowned the Twitter handle Wavinya Ndeti Press team @WavinyPress that purported to have condemned the rapper over his new song.
Wavinya said she only has one twitter account @Wavinya_ Ndeti and urgied members of the public to ignore any other twitter account purpoting to be hers.
“I only have one twitter account which is known to everyone, it is not clear to me why some people are using my name to talk about things I don’t know,” she said.
SEE ALSO :Why it is important to fix Kenya’s sanitation problemsAccording to Wavinya, the fake account was being used by people out to ruin her good name for political reasons.
“I believe the account is operated by individuals who are out to ruin my reputation and so I distant myself from anything posted under the aforementioned handle. I have reported the issue for it to be brought down.”
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She said she was surprised when Kenyans started attacking her online over the tweet which purported to condemn King Kaka and the song yet she doesn’t know anything.
Wavinya also condemned a section of the media for falling for the fake tweets and attributing them to her.
“It is wrong for the media to use fake tweets to paint me in bad light. They should have contacted me before believing these fake tweets.”
Fiery Lawyer Miguna Miguna is among those who attacked Wavinya online after falling for the fake tweet.
Wavinya urged Kenyans to stop being abusive and instead learn to communicate with decorum even when expressing divergent opinions.
She accused some youths of being used by her political detractors to tarnish her name and vowed to protect her name through legal channels.
Wavinya who currently chairs the governing council Kenya Institute of Water said she has already reported the matter to the police to investigate the account in question.
“I want the police to get to the bottom of this account, because I am fearing my opponents could be using them to tarnish my name,” she added.
On the new King Kaka’s song, Wavinya said she is yet to listen to the said song and cannot elaborately comment on it.
“Unless you tell me about it, I only hear people talk about a hard-hitting song by King Kaka but I haven’t listened to it,” she said adding that police are on the matter.
She, however, said from the name of the song alone, she fears listening to it, adding that being abusive is not the best way to communicate to others.
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Wavinya NdetiWajinga nyinyiRapper King Kanga
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