Attackers impersonate charities, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. They have already taken up the administration of the social network.
After the military coup in Sudan, users turned to social networks to find a way to help the protesters against the local army. But instead of humanitarian organizations’ accounts, they stumbled upon profiles whose authors spread false information about victims and declare that they are helping them for repost. Taylor Lorenz from The Atlantic drew attention to this .
In social networks responded to protests in Sudan
On April 11, 2019, the Sudanese army announced the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, who was placed under house arrest. The military also broke up the government and arrested the officials. The army created a military council that will govern the country for a year. After that, the demonstrators came out to protest for the establishment of a democratic regime.
On June 3, a tent camp of protesters in front of the main command of the troops attacked: the military began to shoot and beat demonstrators and medical workers, as well as to commit group rape of women. The army killed about 100 people and dumped more than 40 corpses into the Nile River. On June 16, the army blockedaccess to the Internet in the country, the protests continue to this day.
In social networks, they started to launch tags in support of Sudanese citizens, spread information about the protests and put identical avatars in solidarity. However, the attackers on Instagram used the trend, drawing attention to their accounts with fakes and false information.
Fake accounts promised to feed a Sudanese child for the repost
The @SudanMealProject account , the creator of which promised to help the children of Sudan, gained 400 thousand subscribers in a few days. He began to emulate hundreds of similar pages.
These profiles put a blue background on an avatar in memory of Mohamed Hashim Mattar, a 26-year-old protester Mohamed, who used the same picture for a profile photo before he died. After that, blue became a symbol of solidarity with protesters in Sudan.
The account creator has indicated in the profile that he is going to provide about 100 thousand meals to the citizens of Sudan. For every repost of his publication in history, he promised to send food to Sudanese children.
At the same time, only human rights organizations have the capacity and mechanisms for the supply of food and medicine to such countries. “Ordinary people simply will not be able to provide humanitarian aid to Sudan,” said UNICEF spokesman Joe English.
When the journalist turned to the author of the page, he was unable to provide evidence of cooperation with humanitarian organizations. “I’m just picking up subscribers and getting attention.I love how the left loves to twist these stories.”- commented the creator of fake account.
Imitators changed the name of the account to something similar to @SudanMealPlan and put blue avatars. So the attackers recruited subscribers, then to sell accounts or use them for advertising.
After The Atlantic contacted Instagram, the social network deleted the @SudanMealProject profile and all of its imitators.
In early January 2019, attackers used a similar way to attract subscribers. After the stock photo of the egg became the record for the number of likes on Instagram, users changed the account name to “World Record Egg” and put the egg on the avatar. After the trend disappeared, they changed the names and pictures in the profile.
During the tragedy, people always turn to social networks. But charities don’t lead social networks as actively as intruders, page administrators with memes, or bloggers who use trends to pick up Instagram subscribers, the journalist said.
Criminals and bloggers have confused countries whose help is needed
In addition to fraud on assistance to Sudanese citizens, accounts also spread false information about victims and confused Sudan with South Sudan.
Author @SudanMealsProject wrote that “six million people urgently need food assistance.” He also reported that soon “people will start leading a half-starved existence in the four provinces of Sudan.” However, these data refer to South Sudan, which has been an independent country since 2011.
“It is difficult to say that these accounts effectively inform users, because they use facts related to a completely different country,” said Inglish. He also said that famine in Sudan had not been announced since the beginning of the 2000s. Despite the fact that the protests initially began due to lack of food and fuel, they quickly turned into actions for freedom of speech and democracy. Therefore, accounts use an unfortunate approach to covering the problem, according to The Atlantic.
In the Russian Instagram segment , the publication of the blogger @ chaika.jpeg has spread. She told about 500 killed, although according to the latest media reports, the number of victims was about 100 people. The source of information about the number of raped, arrested and missing could not be found.
The list of humanitarian organizations, which the blogger offered to support financially, refers to the International Rescue Committee, which provides food aid to citizens of South Sudan. He is not associated with protests in Sudan.
Inglish noted that the best way to help protesters is to donate funds to activists and organizations already working in Sudan, including Save The Children and UNICEF . And check the facts for authenticity, before doing reposts on Instagram, he added.