The actors behind this kind of campaign often use topics related to the news, which fascinate public opinion, such as the pandemic or popular protest movements to quickly attract as many people as possible.
Authorities in Algeria have closed several news sites in recent months, confirming the lockdown of the independent media landscape, especially online, and the offensive against freedom of the press and expression. These supports have been replaced by other names, such The Algerian Gazette, or All About Algeria, subservient to the regime.
“The particularity of these two“ media ”? No trace of a single journalist working there could be identified. Behind this deceptive facade hides an obscure Algerian marketing agency called Ayam Agency, which supplies both brands with content. These accounts imitate the functioning of legitimate press organizations in order to disseminate messages of a political nature ” notes the French newspaper.
“These two titles are among the many accounts deleted by Facebook in June. The American giant has announced the deletion of 130 profiles, 221 pages, 35 groups and 29 Instagram accounts. They relayed announcements on the current affairs of the country by systematically adopting the point of view of the Algerian government and denigrating its opponents ” we noted.
The Internet is the subject of a growing gag in Algeria, affecting both the activities of online media and Internet users critical of power, and mobilizing a whole legal arsenal in order to domesticate it. Thus, a reform of the penal code adopted in April 2020 aimed at criminalizing the dissemination of false news has been denounced as a serious threat to freedom of expression and of the press by several human rights organizations.
“The American company Graphika, specializing in new technologies and the analysis of social networks, studied the techniques of influence and disinformation on the internet used in Algeria before, during and after the Hirak protests in 2019. Its report published on July 22 highlights the ways in which public opinion is manipulated in the era of cyber warfare. The survey reveals a multiplatform activity over several years to defend the interests of the Algerian President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, since his candidacy in 2019 “ we reveal.
In October 2020, the Algerian regime adopted a draft decree intended to better “Supervise the activities of online media” but it is a reality only a masked censorship. In particular, it is provided that electronic sites are “exclusively” hosted in Algeria. “All the resources (material, software, human, creation, operation) necessary for hosting a site must also be in Algeria”, according to the official APS agency.
The activity detailed in this report shows how politically motivated actors are “Capable of using deceptive behavior on multiple online platforms, not just for the purpose of influencing
“Promotional” for forces aligned with the government. But these
actors can also attack and silence dissenting voices ”, summarizes the Graphika team.
“Two aspects illustrate the political cyberwar in Algeria. The first is that of state sponsored harassment campaigns. A phenomenon that the report calls “patriotic trolling”. Recorded around the world, they have targeted journalists, human rights activists and dissidents ” detailed Le Figaro.
“The report is alarmed at the promotion of a so-called hacktivist group that emerged in February. The Algerian Spy posted videos on Facebook and YouTube claiming to prove the compromise of opposition figures. These videos include screenshots and recordings of so-called private messages and conversations, as well as financial information, identity documents and other personal data ”, reports the French daily. For Graphika, this second aspect “Illustrates how intelligence-gathering efforts can then be militarized to intimidate and discredit victims”.