On Wednesday Dec 13, Reuters journalist Amina Ismail’s Twitter account got suspended. Her account has since been fixed, but why was it suspended in the first place?
The suspension was the latest in a series of accounts of Egyptian activists and journalists being suspended in recent days and weeks.
Searching the name “Amina Ismail” on Twitter on 13 Dec 2017 (the day she was suspended) you will find her most recent article is about “Sources: Egyptian authorities arrest 3 supporters of Ahmed Shafiq”. Shortly after this article was published, Amina was attacked by the below accounts threatening rape and violence, and accusing her of being behind the enforced disappearance of 2 citizens. (I am still investigating this claim.)
The accounts: @11zK2Hd19Wv0tpy, @3ryhT27shdCj2nn, @G9WUORtN6sVE9FN, @1Lzcag0bfk33ZDF under the names of يناير ثورتنا، لساها ثورة يناير، شباب 6 ابريل، كابو 6 ابريل are impersonating other companies and movements related to the January 25th revolution , like the April 6 Movement and slogans from the uprisings.
By scraping tweets from those accounts, (with the help of Tom Trewinarrd and Littlefork) we discovered that all the accounts were created within an hour of one another on July 2017. They all share the same “user_lang” (profile language): Russian. They all follow similar and the same accounts, also in Russian.
Although the reason provided by Twitter for the suspension was “account impersonation” we were unable to find a credible account that Amina could be suspected of impersonating. It seems likely, then, that this is a pretext.
We don’t know with certainty how Amina’s account got suspended by Twitter, but we have seen false flag tactics — where tens or hundreds of bots flag content or accounts for removal by platforms — used before by troll armies targeting journalists and activists.
This case also raises concerns of online hate speech and violent threats targeting women in journalism. While Amina’s account was suspended, those threatening her remain active. it also shed the light on the consequences when governments stands against news agencies using the term “fake news” to suppress it
We’re still looking at various issues related to this case and will post updates as more information comes to light.