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Facebook deactivates 937 accounts associated with the Nicaraguan government

On Monday, Meta Platforms, the company that operates Facebook, announced that it had canceled 937 accounts associated with the Nicaraguan government and President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista party. 

As part of its policy against "coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity," Meta also deactivated 140 fraudulent pages, 24 groups, and 363 Instagram accounts, according to the company.

Troll farms, according to Meta, are attempts to "corrupt or manipulate public discourse through the use of fictitious accounts in order to... mislead people about who is behind them."

The company stated that the network of accounts was established as a result of large-scale protests against the government that took place in 2018. The accounts attempted to disparage members of the opposition while simultaneously praising the government. Numerous accounts claimed to be written by students at a Nicaraguan university that served as a focal point for the demonstrations.

Ortega is seeking re-election for a fourth consecutive term in Nicaragua's elections, which are scheduled to take place on November 7. Those elections, however, have been rendered largely moot as a result of the government's detention of critics and seven potential challengers to the ruling party.

Beginning in May, Ortega began detaining nearly anyone who publicly disagreed with him, including those who had fought alongside him during the country's 1979 revolutionary uprising. The families of 155 political prisoners issued a statement in which they claimed their loved ones had been subjected to "mistreatment and torture" while in prison.

In the words of the country's most important opposition groups, Ortega's actions have "put an end to any semblance of genuine electoral competition in the country."

More than 140,000 Nicaraguans have fled their country since the government began cracking down on widespread anti-government demonstrations in early 2018.

In an interview with Meta, the troll farm that was shut down in October was said to be run out of postal service offices, and that "additional smaller clusters of fictitious accounts were run out of other government offices, such as the Supreme Court and the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute," according to Meta.

In a statement, the company stated that the campaign was "cross-platform and cross-government." "It possessed a complex network of media brands that were dispersed across social media platforms such as Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Blogspot, and Telegram, as well as websites associated with these news outlets. They spread positive content about the government and negative commentary about the opposition by creating hundreds of fictitious accounts and posting it on social media."

In April 2018, protests erupted across Nicaragua, prompting Ortega to claim that the demonstrations were a coup attempt supported by foreign powers. Also at odds with him are Roman Catholic bishops who served as mediators during the government's brief first round of dialogue with the opposition, which was followed by a brutal crackdown on the protests by security forces backed by the United Nations.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that at least 325 people died in clashes in Nicaragua that year between civilians and government forces, according to the commission.

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