Facebook has shut down several accounts of a network in Uganda linked to its Ministry of Information. The social media company accused the ministry of using fake accounts to promote the ruling party and the president ahead of general elections this week. The Facebook accounts shut down were allegedly linked to the Citizens Interaction Center at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.
In a statement, Facebook accused the account holders of using fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people's content, impersonate users, and re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were.
"Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network," Facebook said in a statement disclosing that the decision was linked to the government ministry of information and communications technology.
"They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people's content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were," it added.
President Museveni's senior press secretary Don Wanyama, who saw both his Facebook and Instagram accounts shut down, accused the company of seeking to influence the election.
"Shame on the foreign forces that think they can aid and plant a puppet leadership on Uganda by disabling online accounts of [ruling party] NRM supporters," he said on Twitter, adding that "You won't take away President Kaguta Museveni."
Museveni's online account is still active, but a quick search reveals that many government officials and members of the ruling party had their pages taken down, including a well-known blogger and Museveni supporter, a prominent doctor, and a senior official in the information ministry.
The accounts shutdown comes amid heightened tensions between the two leading candidates – President Museveni and 38-year-old opposition candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, popularly known as Bobi Wine, running against nine others.
Just last week, Bobi Wine revealed that he had to take his children and close family members outside the country following reports of a pending attack and kidnap. He revealed that his family has been living in fear for the past three years after he announced that he would challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the polls slated for January 14, 2021.
"That is why, therefore, when I received information of pending physical attacks on me, my wife and kidnap of our children, friends in the diaspora reached out to us, offered to host them for a while! That does not mean that my wife or I are any safer by remaining around. But our effort is to ensure they don't kidnap one of these minors and try to use them to coerce us into subjugation!" He said.