Sham Facebook pages of ministries spark concerns
Feature Stories - December 7, 2019

Sham Facebook pages of ministries spark concerns

KABUL (Pajhwok): Tens of fake Facebook pages have been created in names of different ministries, carrying false information that creates problems for people, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt.

The Government Media and Information Centre says Afghanistan had 23 ministries whose heads were introduced to the Wolesi Jirga by the president for trust vote.

Pajhwok’s findings show fake Facebook pages are associated with dozens of ministries. However, this news agency did not find fake pages in names of eight ministries.

Out of the 23, official pages of 10 ministries have been verified. Blue tick marks on Facebook accounts show their credibility.

Ministries of Culture and Information, Women Affairs, Refugees and Repatriation, Urban Development and Housing, Economy, Commerce and Industry, Justice and Mines and Petroleum do not have fake pages associated with them.

But sham accounts are associated with the following ministries:

1-Ministry of Defence:

Original page

Fake page

Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for MoD, told Pajhwok Afghan News no fake page was associated with his ministry.

2-Ministry of Interior:

Original page

Fake page

The fake page of MoI is run by an individual who introduces himself as a staff member of the ministry.

Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for MoI, told Pajhwok the ministry was striving to prevent such fake pages to curb crime, saying they had shared the issue with the Ministry of Telecommunication, Information and Technology (MoTIT).

Rahimi added there was a section within the ministry trying to prevent such crime and extend cooperation to citizens on the issue.

“Creating fake pages and denigrating a personality or a ministry is a crime. The ministry, therefore, has tasked the anti-crime branch to take steps against such activities,” he added.

A Facebook page named “National Afghan Police” is being followed by thousands of users. The MoI called it a fake account, which has been publishing news and videos of high-ranking officials and shares it with people.

3-Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Original page

Fake page

The latest post on this page was published in May 2017. It only shares information and photos of the ministry.

But Gran Hewad, spokesman for MoFA, insisted currently no counterfeit page was associated with the ministry. He confirmed a fake page that existed two years back was removed by MoTIT.

4-Ministry of Transport:

Original page

Fake page

The latest post on this page appeared in February 2018. Ashraf Haqshanas, a media officer at the ministry, said they had repeatedly sent letters to MoTIT for removing fake pages but no action had been taken so far.

He said the fake pages had been sharing wrong information.

5-Ministry of Higher Education:

Original page

Fake page

Two fake Facebook pages in the name of this ministry — Kankor and the Ministry of Higher Education – exist. These pages last released information in July this year.

Kankor has been liked by 79,000 users and the other one by 25,000 people.

Mohammad Akhtar Obair, head of the media office at MoHE, said they had shared the issue with MoTIT to eliminate the fake pages.

“We have several times contacted MoTIT to verify our original page and at last it was verified,” he added.

He said a number of people were involved in creating fake pages but people should follow only verified accounts.

6-Ministry of Public Health:

Original page

Fake page

Two fake pages of the ministry have been created — one operated by an individual and another in the name of the ministry. Officials of MoPH refused to comment.

7-Ministry of Water and Energy

Original page

Fake page

The MoWE page operator says it is a fake account. The page, created in 2016, carries several posts about corruption in the ministry. The last post on it came in 2018.

Ser Nekzada, spokesman for the ministry, said they had been working on a policy to eliminate the account page.

“Efforts are underway to have only one page for sharing information with the public.”

8-Ministry of Agriculture

Original page

Fake page

Akbar Rustami, spokesman for the MoAIL, said so far only one fake page in the name of the ministry has been created. Steps are being taken for its elimination.

He said the fake page was created a few years back — an issue shared with MoTIT.  The sham page will be eliminated.

9-Ministry of Telecom & IT

Original page

Fake page

This page has been critical of Internet services. Sher Shah Nawabi, spokesman for the MoTIT, told Pajhwok they had only one account. If other pages are seen, they will be eliminated.

10-Ministry of Finance:

Original page

Fake page

MoF’s fake account is operated by an individual, whose last post was seen in 2018. Shamroz Khan Masjidi, spokesman for MoF, said they had not seen any fake page of the ministry so far.

11- Ministry of Education:

Official page

Fake page

This page has been also created by the name of Ministry of Education and publishes education related information.

Nooria Nazhat, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, told Pajhwok their official facebook page had been verified and there are many webpages associated to the Education Ministry and published information.

“We have established contact with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to dismantle fake pages associated to them,” said Nazhat.

12- Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD):

Official page

Fake page

Mohammad Rafiq Junbish, MRRD deputy spokesman, told Pajhwok that there was no fake page on social media of the ministry.

“We are trying to verify our official page so people know it is our official page,” he said.

13- Ministry of Border and Tribal Affairs (MBTA):

Official page

Fake page

There are two fake pages in the name of MBTA. A person has uploaded his own photos on one of these two pages.

Another fake Facebook page of MBTA has only 30 followers and has posted nothing on its wall.

Abdul Wahid Khawri, spokesman of the ministry, said that they maintained only one Facebook page.

“The ministry has not encountered with any fake pages in its name, but if we found such pages, action will be taken,” he said.

14- Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA):

Official page

Fake page

Abdul Fatah Ahmadzai, MoLSA spokesman, confirmed one fake page exited in their ministry’s name.

15- Ministry of Hajj and Islamic Affairs (MoHIA):

Official page

Fake page

Shafiq, a MoHIA employee, said their official Facebook page was in two languages — Pashtu and Dari — but a fake page in the ministry’s name was only Dari.

Ministries with no fake pages

16- Ministry of Justice (MoJ):

Official page

Aman Riazat, spokesman of MoJ said that there were many fake pages using the name of the ministry.

He said they had asked the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology (MCIT) to verify MoJ’s official page.

17-Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI):

Official page

Samir Rasa, MoCI spokesman, said no fake pages exited under the ministry’s name and the MoCI official page was verified.

18- Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP):

Official page

Qadir Mutfa, spokesman of MoMP, said that fake pages using the name of the ministry existed but they were trying to remove them.

“We have removed some of these fake pages and have asked MCIT to remove the rest attributed to the ministry,” he said.

19- Ministry of Economy (MoE):

Official page

Younas Salik, MoE spokesman, told Pajhwok they did not face any fake pages attributed to MoE.

20- Ministry of Urban Development and Land (MUDL:

Official page

MUDL spokesman Hashmatullah Naseri said they did not find any fake page attributed to the ministry.

He said some pages had been run in the name of the ministry in the past but now there was currently only one official page.

21- Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC):

Official page

Sabir Momand, MoCI spokesman, said no fake page exited created under the name of the ministry.

22- Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR)

Official page

Abdul Basit Ansari, MoRR spokesman, said that there were no fake pages attributed to the ministry on Facebook.

23- Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA):

Official page

MoWA officials did not respond to Pajhwok’s phone contacts.

Fake Facebook pages should be removed: People

A Facebook user, Sabawoon Malakzai, told Pajhwok that there were multiple Facebook pages attributed to a single ministry which created problems for people.

“There are two or three pages attributed to one ministry on Facebook, people do not know which one is real,” he said.

Another Facebook user, Naser Jabarkhel, said fake pages should be removed for all ministries, particularly security organs.

“Fake Facebook pages of ministries provide wrong information, this face people with problems, such accounts should be deleted,” he said.

Experts also view fake pages inappropriate:

An expert and activist on Facebook, Numan Dost said information could be divided into two parts — action and reaction, explaining the first part was contents published by offices and the second was obtained in questions.

“Everything is made public in countries where no corruption exist”, he said, adding only offices which were corrupt or managed by disqualified people kept their information secret.

“Every office should have pages and share all information without those confidential because media use them as sources,” Dost said.

About fake pages, he said that forgery was illegal wherever it was and people could not know fake pages.

 Mushtaq Rahim, another Facebook user and expert said many people still had no ethics of using social media. “People publish anything to increase followers in Afghanistan,” he said.

About fake pages attributed to ministries, he said that some people had created such pages due to their obsession with ministry officials and to defame them. However, he said creating fake pages in general was not a good thing.

Access to Information Commission (AIC): Creating fake pages is illegal

An AIC member, Hamdullah Arbab said that creating fake pages attributed to ministries and departments was a crime. He said that organs concerned should investigate such pages and remove them.

Ministries and departments are responsible to share updated information with public via their pages or websites, he added.

Sher Shah Nawabi, spokesman of MCIT, about fake Facebook pages said that no ministry or department had contacted them about fake pages. He said they would respond to the problem of ministries if shared it with them. Nawabi said fake pages damaged information sharing and eroded people trust.

Pajhwok Afghan News also covered reports of fake pages attributed to presidential candidates.

Fake Facebook pages should be removed: People

A Facebook user, Sabawoon Malakzai, told Pajhwok that there were multiple Facebook pages attributed to a single ministry which created problems for people.

“There are two or three pages attributed to one ministry on Facebook, people do not know which one is real,” he said.

Another Facebook user, Naser Jabarkhel, said fake pages should be removed for all ministries, particularly security organs.

“Fake Facebook pages of ministries provide wrong information, this face people with problems, such accounts should be deleted,” he said.

Experts also view fake pages inappropriate:

An expert and activist on Facebook, Numan Dost said information could be divided into two parts — action and reaction, explaining the first part was contents published by offices and the second was obtained in questions.

“Everything is made public in countries where no corruption exist”, he said, adding only offices which were corrupt or managed by disqualified people kept their information secret.

“Every office should have pages and share all information without those confidential because media use them as sources,” Dost said.

About fake pages, he said that forgery was illegal wherever it was and people could not know fake pages.

 Mushtaq Rahim, another Facebook user and expert said many people still had no ethics of using social media. “People publish anything to increase followers in Afghanistan,” he said.

About fake pages attributed to ministries, he said that some people had created such pages due to their obsession with ministry officials and to defame them. However, he said creating fake pages in general was not a good thing.

Access to Information Commission (AIC): Creating fake pages is illegal

An AIC member, Hamdullah Arbab said that creating fake pages attributed to ministries and departments was a crime. He said that organs concerned should investigate such pages and remove them.

Ministries and departments are responsible to share updated information with public via their pages or websites, he added.

Sher Shah Nawabi, spokesman of MCIT, about fake Facebook pages said that no ministry or department had contacted them about fake pages. He said they would respond to the problem of ministries if shared it with them. Nawabi said fake pages damaged information sharing and eroded people trust.

Pajhwok Afghan News also covered reports of fake pages attributed to presidential candidates.

Behishta Arghand

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