Facebook has deleted 66 user accounts, 63 pages, five groups and 25 Instagram accounts linked to a staunch DRC president supporter Honore Mvula.
DFRLab was the first to discover this network while investigating Covid-19 misinformation in Africa.
The pages which had a combined total of 1.5 million likes were using deceptive tactics to promote Honore Mvula. The accounts, which were managed by about six people, were used to convey misinformation (mostly about Covid-19) and political propaganda.
According to Facebook, the accounts initially represented other politicians and public figures. After gaining a substantial audience they rebranded and started posting pro-Mvula content.
One such example is Honore Mvula’s personal Facebook account which was first created in 2016 under the username of the former DRC Prime Minister Samy Badibanga.
“The people behind this activity used duplicate and fake accounts to create fictitious personas, post in groups and on pages, drive people to off-platform sites, and manage pages posing as independent news and fact-checking entities,” Facebook divulged.
“They also impersonated opposition and political candidates and reposted their exact content, likely to build an audience. Some of these pages appear to have been purchased and have gone through significant name changes over time,” Facebook added.
Though the individuals behind the accounts tried to hide their identity, Facebook traced the activities back to Honore Mvula’s political party, Force des Patriotes.
Mvula has defended himself by saying that he bought his account from an independent journalist who manages the accounts of high profile personalities.
“This page was created and sold by the independent journalist, the influencer in social networks and account manager of several high profile personalities and authorities as a consultant,” Mvula tweeted.
Mr Mvula further said that his account has only two administrators (community managers). He says that experts in the field have informed him that his account remains connected to the accounts of the original administrator.
Mvula has faulted Facebook for not hearing his side of the story and accused the platform of being on a mission to tarnish his name.
“This site (Facebook) refuses to publish my version of the facts and all comments posted to contradict their version of the facts are automatically deleted. I am, therefore, in all likelihood, the victim of a cabal mounted from scratch to sully my reputation and taint the credible image that I have hard-built in the political sphere and also in social networks,” Mvula added.
Mvula joined politics as a member of the opposition party called Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC). He founded Force des Patriotes (FP) in 2019 which is a “movement of young Congolese intellectuals”. Though he has never been elected into office, he is a staunch supporter of the DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, whom he campaigned for in 2018.