Libyan Militias use Social Media for Disinformation Campaigns, Weapons Trade, and Hunting Critics

During the Arab Spring, social media such as Facebook and Twitter played a crucial role in the organization of the movement. However, just as social media can be used to form constructive change, it can just as quickly be used to amplify violence. Warring military factions in Libya have weaponized Facebook, turning it into an outlet to spread disinformation, finding political dissidents, and as a weapons bazaar.

According to a report by the New York Times, Libyan militias are using Facebook and Twitter for locating critics to detain, murder or force them into exile. Faction leaders would also use the platforms for recruitment and spreading messages instigating ethnic hatred. Human rights group Amnesty International also detailed how the military factions would engage in smear campaigns against female bloggers, journalist and activists who oppose them by stating they engage in adultery.

New York Times reporters also discovered evidence of weapons trading and human trafficking services offered on Facebook. They would use pages and posts to advertise military weapons and services to help illegal migrants reach Europe by sea. Facebook has stated that they have been cracking down on these pages following the report.

The company states they actively monitor content and use Arabic speaking reviewers to parse through posts in search of violations. Despite this, bad actors find ways to circumnavigate these policies, and many pages are yet to be taken down.

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