BNP-Jamaat affiliated Facebook page runs dreadful propaganda

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Facebook page, Facebook, YouTube, Awami League, CRI

A Facebook page named ‘Satya Sondhaney’ – which is evidently affiliated to Al Qaeda-connected Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) has been continuously running dreadful propaganda targeting various important figures in the Awami League government as well as members of the ruling party by circulating series of disinformation and fake news. One disturbing rumor titled – “Singer Mumtaz is infected with AIDS”, drew the attention of this newspaper.

The post, featuring a picture of the renowned singer and former MP of the ruling party alongside the logo of the leading satellite television channels – ‘Channel-I’, has been shared 4,200 times by Facebook users. Despite the page’s tagline, ‘Fearless in revealing the truth’, it primarily posts fake news and anti-government contents, revealing its role in propaganda against the Awami League government.

Spreading such false rumors about former Awami League MP and popular singer Mumtaz Begum is a punishable offense under the existing Digital Security Act (DSA), while it also is tantamount to defamation and criminal acts.

The Digital Security Act, aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation and protecting individuals from online defamation, sets a strong precedent against such malicious actions. Furthermore, using the logo of a well-known TV channel like ‘Channel-I’ makes the rumor appear more credible, thereby misleading a larger audience. However, as of the time of filing this report, Channel-I has not commented on either of the Facebook page or this notorious rumor.

In a similar vein, another inflammatory post was shared from a Facebook account named ‘Jafar bd ex-army’, featuring a video with a poster displaying the logo of ‘JAMUNA TV’ with title – ‘Chhatra League leader caught with 1 kg of gold in her anus!’

This post used the photo of Chhatra League leader Tilottama Shikder and has been widely shared on social media. The original news, however, involved an airline cabin crew named Surbhi Khatun in India, who was arrested with gold hidden in her body.

In response to this defamation, Tilottama Shikder lodged a General Diary (GD) with Shahbagh Police Station. Jamuna TV also clarified the matte by publishing a report and sharing it on their verified Facebook page, condemning the fake photocard and affirming that they did not publish such content.

The proliferation of such disinformation and fake news on social media is not an isolated incident. It is part of a broader trend of anti-government campaigns conducted by various accounts and pages – mainly on Facebook. Similarly, anti-government elements also are running dozens of channels on YouTube – most of which either use logos of prominent television channels, while a large number of the so-called news channels on YouTube are operating without any permission or license.

The comments and likes on these social media posts predominantly reflect anti-government sentiments, indicating a coordinated effort to undermine the current government and ruling Awami League. This strategy of using disinformation as a tool for political warfare has become increasingly prevalent, posing significant challenges to the ruling Awami League. There is thousands of fake accounts of Facebook and ‘X’ (formerly known as Twitter), which are run by activists of Al Qaeda-connected Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami.

In recent years, the ruling Awami League has faced substantial online propaganda challenges. The government’s efforts to counteract such disinformation have been met with limited success, largely due to the sophisticated and persistent nature of these campaigns. Anti-government online propagandists, both domestically and abroad, continuously spread misinformation, tarnishing the country’s image and eroding public trust.

Notably, identified anti-government disinformation figures such as Shahid Uddin Khan, Zulkarnain Sayer Sami, Canada-based YouTube Channel Nagorik TV’s Nazmus Saqib, Tito Rahman, and Pinaki Bhattacharya continue their notorious activities by taking advantage of them being in foreign soils. The persistence of these figures in spreading misinformation raises critical questions about the effectiveness of the government and its related departments in combating this issue.

Recent examples of propaganda include the false claims about singer Mumtaz and the Chhatra League leader, but these are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Thousands of such posts have circulated over the past few years, each contributing to a growing web of disinformation. The scale of this problem is highlighted by a recent crackdown by Facebook, which resulted in the shutdown of 148 Facebook IDs and pages. These accounts, accused of being associated with the Awami League and its research cell, the Center for Research and Information (CRI), were implicated in organized disinformation campaigns according to media reports.

The shutdown of these accounts by Facebook underscores the complex dynamics of online disinformation. While it may seem like a victory in the fight against fake news, it also reflects the deep entanglement of political entities in the digital propaganda landscape. The actions taken by Facebook suggest that disinformation is not confined to any single side of the political spectrum, but is a pervasive issue that affects all parties involved.

The continuous spread of false information by pages like ‘Satya Sondhaney’ and accounts like ‘Jafar bd ex army’ highlights the urgent need for more robust measures to combat online propaganda. It is essential for the government, social media platforms, and civil society to work together in addressing this menace. This collaboration should aim to develop effective strategies for identifying, reporting, and countering fake news while ensuring that the rights to free speech and political expression are not unduly compromised.

The battle against online disinformation is ongoing and requires a multifaceted approach. Education and awareness campaigns can empower citizens to critically evaluate the information they encounter online. Additionally, strengthening digital literacy programs can equip individuals with the tools needed to discern between credible news sources and propaganda.

The activities of anti-government Facebook pages like ‘Satya Sondhaney’ represent a significant threat to political stability and public trust. The propagation of false rumors and defamatory content is not only harmful to individuals like singer Mumtaz and Chhatra League leader Tilottama Shikder but also to the broader democratic process. It is imperative for all stakeholders to recognize the gravity of this issue and take concerted actions to curb the spread of disinformation, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the political discourse and the well-being of the society at large.

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