KABUL (Pajhwok): Tens of fake Facebook pages have been created in the name of presidential candidates and have been publishing negative and immoral propaganda against rival candidates, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt.
Facebook pages associated to Torsan, a presidential hopeful, have attracted special attention for its negative propagation against other runners.
Pajhwok’s findings show there are 53 fake or unverified Facebook pages using the names of 16 presidential candidates. Most of these fake pages or 12 are associated with incumbent President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. Noor Rahman Liwal is the only presidential candidate who has no fake Facebook account.
Election watchdogs and experts demand the authorities concerned take action against fake accounts because of their negative impact in the society on polls and public opinion.
Eighteen individuals had been in the run for the presidency before Zalmay Rasoul bowed out of the race in favor of another candidate and Mohammad Hanif Atmar halted his election campaign activities.
Election rivalry intensified n Afghanistan when the election campaign was launched last month and fake Facebook pages associated with different candidates emerged, negatively propagating against rivals to manipulate public opinion about them.
Pajhwok Afghan news has identified some original and fake Facebook pages associated with presidential hopefuls and wishes to introduce them to the people so they are not confused in picking their favorite candidate due to the propaganda campaign of fake Facedbook pages.
Following are the information regarding presidential hopefuls’ social media accounts; the list is organized in line with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) nomination list.
1- Rahmatullah Nabil:
Tahir Saadat, secretary of Rahmatullah Nabil’s election team “Security and Justice” showed the original Facebook page of their election team to Pajhwok Afghan News.
The original facebook page of Nabil’s team has Nabil’s photograph on its profile and a bedazzled blue flag on which Security and Justice is written and is placed as a cover photo.
But fake accounts in Nabil’s name have different photographs.
Fake facebook pages addresses associated with Rahmatullah Nabil:
“We have a verified facebook page and presidential candidate Nabil himself has stated on his personal page about the original facebook page for the presidential campaign,” said Saadat, referring to the original facebook page.
2- Syed Noorullah Jalili:
Despite frequent contacts, members of Syed Noorullah Jalili’s election campaign declined to share information regarding their original facebook pages with Pajhwok Afghan News.
Four facebook pages have been created in Jalili’s name which are unverified by the facebook administration and Jalili’s election team.
Three out of four facebook pages published materials in favour of Jalili while one has nothing on its wall.
Jalili spokesman Najibullah Manavi said: “We have seen different fake facebook pages but no action is taken in this regard.”
3- Faramarz Tamana:
Presidential candidate Faramarz Tamanna’s election team original Facebook page has his and his two deputy nominees photographs on his profile and slogans of Aenda Yaftani Nest Sakhtani Ast (Future cannot be discovered, it can be built).
According to Pajhwok findings, three more Facebook pages are run in Tamanna’s name with different profile pictures.
Paktash Saberi, operations head of Tamana’s team, regarding fake Facebook pages said: “We have found one or two fake accounts but we did not react because presidential hopeful Tamanna has nothing negative which can be propagated,” he said.
4- Shaida Mohammad Abdali:
Abdali’s Spokesman Hikmatullah Ishaqzai said they often faced with fake facebook pages which negatively campaigned against them.
Spokesman for Abdali, Hikmatullah Ishazqzai, said they often came across fake FB pages, spreading negative propaganda against them. “Our IT team is trying to stop these fake facebook pages,” he added.
He said they had complained to the Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministry twice regarding fake facebook pages, but to no avail.
Among three fake facebook pages, one contains posts and pictures of Abdali in which he meets people, one has no posts and one publishes posts against Abdali.
5- Ahmad Walli Massoud:
Presidential candidate Ahmad Walli’s Secretary Fahim Qeyammi said, Massoud’s facebook page has been verified by the Facebook administration.
Massoud’s original facebook page maintains his picture in profile and his picture with people on cover photo.
Of these four fake facebook pages, one maintains a post referring to President Ashraf Ghani’s interview with Tolo News: “I am your’s Tolo News. Ashraf Ghani’s real face is exposed.”
Two more pages praises Walli Massoud and posts some other materials irrelevant to election. “We have not yet faced a huge problem from these fake facebook pages, therefore we did not complain,” said Massoud’s secretary.
6- Noor Rahman Liwal:
Liwal has one real Facebook page and there no fake social media account in his name. Liwal’s deputy presidential nominee Dr. Mohammad Yahya said all social media propaganda was in their interest.
“Political or non-political every post in social media is in our interest and we have no complaint against it.”
7- Engineer Shahab Hakimi:
His original Facebook page carries profile picture of Hakimi and another picture which shows graves and some people around. Two more unverified pages in Hakimi’s name exist, which are: (https://bit.ly/2lBxWr4 – https://bit.ly/2lDiGtN)
These pages maintains Hakimi’s election campaign pictures and text.
Hakimi’s Secretary Hiwad Malakzai said there was no negative propaganda against their election team on facebook or any other social media outlet.
8- Mohammad Ashraf Ghani:
Two photographs, one painting of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani can be seen on his original Facebook page, according to his presidential campaign office.
Among presidential candidates, most of fake Facebook pages are created in the name of Ashraf Ghani.
https://bit.ly/2kskwO6- https://bit.ly/2lvFKLe – https://bit.ly/2kqRm1N –https://bit.ly/2lCFsC1 – https://bit.ly/2lwm75E- https://bit.ly/2lXL2zk- https://bit.ly/2k258ry- https://bit.ly/2lvG7FC- https://bit.ly/2khgTKW – https://bit.ly/2lxDaEx – https://bit.ly/2khn8OU- https://bit.ly/2k3gJGS
One of these pages maintain a post which says: “Attention! Mujahideen know two things — looting and attacking and Jihadi background leaders don’t consider economy, education and other common welfare activities as their goals.”
Another fake Facebook page associated with Ashraf Ghani writes: “The Chief Executive Office doesn’t acknowledge official letters written in Pashto language. In this post, the Chief Executive Officer is dubbed as Dr. Abdullah. ”
Ihsnaullah Arghandiwal, media communication officer of Ghani’s team, said they were investigating fake facebook pages issue and would take decision in this regard.
“We will eliminate fake facebook pages, we have launched our investigation in this regard,” he said.
9- Dr. Abdullah Abdullah:
The original Facebook page of presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah maintains pictures of him and his deputy nominees.
Three more fake Facebook pages have been created under Abdullah’s name which are:
One among these fake pages publishes posts in favour of Dr. Abdullah and there is no activity on the remaining two pages.
Dr. Abdullah’s election campaign spokesman Faridon Khwazon said they had eliminated fake Facebook pages campaigning against Abdullah.
10- Mohammad Hakim Torsan:
Torsan’s original Facebook page is called Hamyan-i-Mohammad Hakim Torsan Namzad-i-Mustaqil Reyasat Jamhori (Supporters of Independent Presidential Candidate Mohammad Hakim Torsan).
These pages maintain posts against rival presidential candidates, including mocking statements.
A post in a fake facebook page refers to President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah and writes: “Everything they did, they wanted to do, the nation is silent. Finally I turned my profile picture black and wrote dirty words.”
This page associates bad names to Abdullah, President Ghani and writes: “Your crown and future president Hakim Torsan.”
Another fake Facebook page says voting to incumbent president and presidential candidate is voting to a killer and has posted a fake picture in which President Ghani points to a burial ceremony of a body with a message saying: “Death is destiny and I will never do everything for your destiny.”
Torsan’s secretary Baheer Amarkhel said: “we have already informed everyone that anything published on fake facebook pages don’t belong to us and they are fake.”
11- Gulbuddin Hekmatyar:
Hekmatyar’s election team doesn’t have a special Facebook page. Fazal Ghani Haqmal, HIA media wing member, said their election campaign page automatically blocked after creation.
He said: “We have established contact with the Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs in this regard but they are yet to respond.”
Both of these pages, which the HIA declines to own, have no posts against rival candidates. A video on one of the pages shows some individuals talking against Hekmatyar.
12- Abdul Latif Pedram:
The original facebook page of Abdul Latif Pedram has his two photographs, in one he waves his hand.
There is another facebook page under Pedram’s name but it does not open. Arej, a member of Peram’s presidential team, said: “If we eliminate this page, more will be created therefore we don’t care about it.”
13- Noorul Haq Ulomi:
Pajhwok reached out to Ulomi’s election team members through telephone and other interpersonal to share social media account links with Pajhwok, but they declined and failed to share them despite several days of wait.
There are three facebook pages associated to Ulomi which are: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100022755999821 – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100029535907619 –https://bit.ly/2ltNzAZ
These pages publish some pictures of Ulomi. His first deputy nominee Ahmad Bezan said no fake facebook pages had been created in their names, adding there were some circles spreading negative campaign against them.
“We are not concerned about fake facebook pages, because there is no corruption, ethnic biasness in our team so people cannot propagate against us,” he said.
14- Mohammad Ibrahim Alkozai:
Presidential hopeful Ibrahim Alkozai has original facebook page in which he can be seen alone and in one picture he is seen among some people.
One of these pages publish Alkozai’s pictures while another writes that US intelligence personnel have decided to refer one of the presidential candidates to the international court for promoting Daesh militant group. The name of candidate is not mentioned.
Alkozai’s spokesman Abdul Rafai said they took no action against fake facebook accounts.
15- Ghulam Farooq Najrabi:
There are two facebook pages under Nijrabi’s name. One of these facebook pages maintains his photograph on profile and a scenery on cover. There is another facebook page under his name in which some of his messages are published.
Najrabi said candidates and public did not create fake facebook pages in his name. “I don’t say bad things about people similarly they don’t say bad thing about me. I don’t think people have created fake facebook pages in my name.”
16- Enayatullah Hafeez:
Presidential Hopeful Enayatullah Hafeez has his photograph on profile picture and another photograph of a group of soldiers on his page cover.
Hafeez’s aide Enayat said they don’t have any opposition which could launch negative propaganda against them therefore they did not take action against fake accounts.
17- Mohammad Hanif Atmar:
The original Facebook page of Hanif Atmar has his photograph and a public gathering photograph in the cover.
Four more fake facebook pages have been created in Atmar’s name which his team said did not belong to them.
“The reason behind all problems is the puppet government established by John Kerry,” reads one of the pages.
Atmar’s spokesman Qader Shah said they did not take action against these four pages.
“We have shared the issue with the election team and decided to inform the masses through original pages about the fake facebook pages,” he said.
Atmar has halted his election campaign at the moment.
The last candidate was Zalmai Rasoul who shunned his candidacy and joined Ashraf Ghani’s team.
Election observers say they are against insult and disgrace to anybody on social media and that fake news should not be published against individuals.
Yousuf Rashid, Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) executive head, said unfair propaganda against election candidates could impact people’s opinion and the election campaigns.
He demanded the authorities concerned chalk out a comprehensive mechanism to prevent fake propaganda.
Mohammad Naeem Ayubzada, head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), said negative propaganda through fake accounts had a negative impact on public minds.
“There is need for legislation to prevent such propaganda,” he said. According to Ayubzada, the IEC and election watchdogs should enhance public awareness level so they don’t trust negative propaganda.
Fazal Ahmad Manavi, former head of the IEC, said the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology should prevent fake facebook pages and other social media accounts involved in negative propaganda campaign. He said such propaganda campaign negatively impacted common people’s thinking.
Mohammad Rafi Sediqi, the IEC media committee head, said there was no policy regarding social media activities in Afghanistan, therefore they could not act in this regard.
“There is no system through which we can recognize the real social media accounts of candidates and then act against individuals who violate the rules. We don’t have any policy to stop creation of fake social media pages,” he said.
Shakaib Kamjoh, spokesman for the MoCIT, said the ministry could act against fake social media accounts upon receiving complaints from candidates.
He added the ministry could stop activities of fake accounts even if their handlers were operated outside the country through Afghanistan foreign missions. He said no candidate had approached the ministry regarding fake social media accounts and the ministry could not act on its own.
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