In a new report released last week by The Stanford Internet Observatory, researchers analyzed a Jordanian disinformation network that pushed pro-monarchy and pro-military narratives on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. The campaign, which Facebook said in a separate report had links to the Jordanian military, also republished audio that had been secretly recorded on Clubhouse. Rest of World reports: Researchers said this is the first time they have identified a disinformation operation that relied on Clubhouse and TikTok, indicating that some states are taking advantage of newer platforms to spread propaganda. The Jordanian campaign cobbled together audio and screen recordings from Clubhouse into at least one video that was then shared on Facebook. According to the report, the audio was taken from a conversation in which Jordanians outside the country and other Arab voices discussed Prince Hamzah, the half-brother of Jordan’s leader, King Abdullah II, who was taken into custody in early April, along with over a dozen other prominent figures. Jordanian authorities accused Hamzah of plotting to destabilize the government, and while the prince later publicly pledged his loyalty to the king, he currently remains on house arrest.
People who saw the video “didn’t know that it was linked to individuals in the Jordanian military,” said Shelby Grossman, a research scholar at the Internet Observatory and a co-author of the report. “But at the same time, you could imagine that if someone watched this video, they might think to themselves, “Oh, people are listening when you have these Clubhouse conversations.'” While Clubhouse has not been officially banned by the Jordanian government, the nonprofit Jordan Open Source Association found that the app can currently only be accessed using a VPN. Recording is against Clubhouse’s Terms of Service, which prohibits users from capturing “any portion of a conversation without the expressed consent of all of the speakers involved.”
The most extensive portion of the Jordanian disinformation network was on Facebook. The social network said in its report that it had removed over 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts, three groups, and 35 pages connected to the campaign, four of which had more than 80,000 followers. The effort also included around $26,000 worth of Facebook ads, but it’s unclear exactly whom they may have targeted. A spokesperson for Facebook said that the company’s Ad Library transparency tool doesn’t currently include data on ads that were run previously in Jordan. The reports says that the researchers “also identified a handful of sock puppet accounts on TikTok that appeared to have ties to the same network.” They didn’t put a lot of effort into it though. “[T]he fake personalities didn’t post original content, instead sharing videos from established accounts associated with the Jordanian military.”