Blog October 8, 2020

Analysis of an October 2020 Facebook Takedown Linked to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria

In this post and in the attached report we investigate an operation that called for the release from prison of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Nigeria Takedown twitter graphic

On October 6, 2020 Facebook announced the takedown of 47 Pages, 93 Groups, 79 profiles, and 48 Instagram accounts linked to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). Facebook shared a portion of this network with the Stanford Internet Observatory on September 24, 2020. The operation called for the release from prison of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the leader of the IMN who has been imprisoned since 2015. IMN, based in Zaria in Kaduna state, advocates a revolution to install an Islamic form of government. It is heavily influenced by Iran. Though the network primarily originated in Nigeria, the accounts frequently linked out to Africa-specific websites with explicit links to Iranian state media. It attempted to be savvy to social engagement, appropriating hashtags and memes that trended for unrelated reasons in the U.S., such as #ZakzakyLifeMatters. This network was suspended not due to the content of its posts, but rather for coordinated inauthentic behavior. 

Freedom Zakzaky
A now-suspended Page called “Freedom Zakzaky”

Key takeaways:

  • Common themes in the network included calling for the Nigerian government to release Zakzaky, and posts critical of the Nigerian government. There was some anti-France and anti-US content, including a Page called “Say ‘No’ to American Intervention in Nigeria.” 

  • Five of the Pages had administrators located in Iran, though we note that Facebook says the operation primarily originated in Nigeria.

  • The network linked out to websites, including the now-down Naijafox.com, srtv.com.ng, and Hausatv.com. The latter is explicitly linked to the Iranian state media outlet Press TV. 

  • The network primarily posted in Hausa and English, with some posts in Arabic and Persian.  

  • Most of the Pages we analyzed had fewer than 5,000 followers. The most popular Page, SR TV HAUSA, had 31,181 followers. 

  • There was substantial activity adjacent to this network that was on Telegram. 

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twitter takedown june 2020
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graphic of facebook page on computer
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graphic illustration of facebook posts from yemen
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