Ugandan internet propaganda network exposed by the BBC

A BBC investigation has uncovered a network of fake social media accounts in Uganda. Under false identities, they spread pro-government messaging and target critics with threats. But who are the people behind it?

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It is not every day that you get to take a selfie with the long-serving President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. When the opportunity arose, Dr Jamechia Hoyle went for it.

She is a senior consultant in the United States, focused on global health security. Back in October 2017, she had travelled to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, to attend an international conference.

Mr Museveni was there to welcome his foreign guests.

Making her way through the crowds, Dr Hoyle approached him, smartphone in hand. “He was really happy to engage with us and take the picture,” she recalls.

Seeing a broad-smiling Dr Hoyle and the president, surrounded by smiling faces trying to get in the shot, photographers couldn’t resist – and they too captured that image.

Dr Jamechia Hoyle holds her smartphone, as she attempts to take a selfie with Ugandan President, Yoweri MuseveniIMAGE SOURCE,TWITTER/DON WANYAMA
Image caption,

Dr Jamechia Hoyle took a selfie with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Four years later, this exact photo would be used to create a fake social media account aimed at spreading state propaganda and targeting government critics.

Dr Hoyle only recently found out about it, after the BBC got in touch with her.

“Seeing my own picture and then understanding the context of some of the things that were shared… I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I was truly taken aback.”

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