Fake profiles on Twitter engage in disinformation and claim pro-UAE stances amidst increasing Emirati involvement in Sudan.
A network of sock puppet accounts have surfaced on Twitter promoting the UAE’s involvement in Sudan. Disinformation experts have studied their behaviour and noted at least 26 accounts under the guise of Sudanese citizens pushing pro-UAE messaging.
A handful of the accounts have led online discussions on the topic of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement the UAE deems a terrorist organisation and which the Emirates has taken extreme measures against.
Sock puppet accounts are generally known as online profiles with false identities whose sole existence is based on deceiving the public and spreading misinformation, in an attempt to sway opinion and garner support on specific matters.
Disinformation expert, Dr. Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), shed light on the recent political intervention in a Twitter thread, where he exposed the accounts and offered a brief analysis.
Thread 1/ For Sudan and Gulf watchers. Below is a brief analysis of a 'Sudanese' sockpuppet network that includes at least 26 accounts. It seems to exist mostly to promote the UAE's role in #Sudan, and occasionally have swipes at the Muslim Brotherhood. #disinformation pic.twitter.com/QmlSJresX7
— Marc Owen Jones (@marcowenjones) January 14, 2022
“The accounts are old Twitter accounts that have been bought or hacked. Many are as old as 2009, but only have around 50 tweets or so. They were repurposed in around December 2021, a few weeks prior to the resignation of Sudanese PM Abdalla Handok,” explained Dr. Jones.
He further suggested that some sock puppet accounts go as far as creating an attractive profile in an attempt to lure in potential supporters. Within this network, some accounts pose as “attractive women” to exhibit “influencer” like aesthetics and subsequently increase the probability of user engagement.
One of the fake accounts was caught by the original owner of the profile picture. Account user @RaheegAlrsheed exposed the fake profile, demanding the identity thief to take down her photo.
Some accounts have professed open anti-Muslim Brotherhood stances, despite Sudan’s long historical ties to the movement. Furthermore, the UAE’s discourse about the Muslim Brotherhood is being shared across the accounts to further promote the Gulf state’s political agenda, which brands the organisation to be “source of terror” within the region.
Since the military coup lead by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in October last year, Sudan has been in upheaval as civil society actively resists military rule. Political analyst, Yasser Al-Awad, suggested that the ongoing crisis in Sudan is based on the lack of cohesion between the different civil and political forces, with some exhibiting hardline stances.
The sock puppet accounts have expressed their support for the UAE and its role in the country’s political climate, implying that Abu Dhabi’s intervention in Sudan is in fact welcome.
A large portion of the content written by the accounts mention the words “Sudan” and “Emirates,”. This is done to further reiterate the good relations between the two countries and particularly the UAE’s long-term assistance to Sudan.
The Emirates involvement in the African country has increased since Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US supported the UN’s invitation for Sudan’s political, civil and military leaders to hold inclusive talks amongst themselves.
The online sock puppet network is perceived largely as a way to ease the idea of further intervention from the Gulf state, and its involvement in shaping the future of Sudan.