Facebook scrubs disinformation network linked to Jordan army

Facebook removes social media disinformation network 'linked to Jordanian military'
3 min read
09 July, 2021
The Jordanian military allegedly ran a disinformation network to encourage support for the king and the military, and to discredit Prince Hamzah.
This was the first time Facebook deleted a disinformation network operating out of Jordan, according to the Stanford Internet Observatory [Getty]

Facebook on Wednesday announced the removal of a disinformation network allegedly run by the Jordanian military, which was aimed at increasing nationalist sentiment and discouraging extremism.

The disinformation network, which was operating on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter, was linked to "individuals in Jordan including those associated with the Jordanian military," according to Facebook.  

The social media accounts posted videos and pictures which extolled the virtues of Jordanian King Abdullah II and the military, while also criticising the Islamic State group (IS). Despite Amman's active participation in the fight against IS in Syria, the country contributed the world's highest number of fighters to the organisation, relative to its population.

The disinformation network also shared posts alleging former Crown Prince Hamzah's "betrayal" of the Palestinian cause.

According to a report by the Stanford Internet Observatory, accounts associated with the disinformation network shared "professionally produced videos" which claimed that Prince Hamzah was willing give up Jordan's custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem in return for a chance to rule Jordan.

Prince Hamzah was placed under house arrest earlier this year after the Jordanian government claimed he was behind a "seditious plot" to destabilise King Abdullah's rule and take the throne for himself.

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Though he was spared from trial after reaffirming his allegiance to the King, his two alleged co-conspirators, Bassam Awadallah and Shareef Hassan Bin Zaid, are currently in a state security court awaiting a verdict to be delivered on Monday.

The videos echoed the state's indictment of both Awadallah and Bin Zaid, which claimed that they were willing to cede Jordanian control over lands in Jerusalem in exchange for foreign backing of their alleged plot. Videos were shared across social networks with the hashtag "Al-Quds [Jerusalem] in exchange for the throne".

Videos also included audio recorded from Clubhouse—a social networking app which hosts audio-only discussions—which attempted to illustrate how Jordanians in the diaspora supported Prince Hamzah’s alleged bid for the throne.

Clubhouse, while not being officially banned in Jordan, is usually inaccessible within the country without the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Further, though the platform is relatively new, a Jordanian woman claimed in May that she had been summoned to the General Directorate of Intelligence (GID) over comments she made in a Clubhouse room.

Though this is the first known instance of Facebook disbanding a disinformation network operated out of Jordan. The Middle East—Jordan included—is rife with disinformation campaigns coordinated by states and non-state actors on social media.

Perhaps most infamously, Saudi Arabia operates a troll army which it has employed to, among other things, distract from and deny accusations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was behind the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Russia also regularly uses bots across social media networks to defend its allies in the region and promote conspiracy theories, the most famous of which is the debunked claim that the Syrian opposition, not the Syrian regime, used chemical weapons against civilians in Syria.