Scammers Target African Journalists with Disinformation on Meta(Facebook/Instagram) Platforms


As journalists across the region continue to face unprecedented attacks on their press freedoms with widespread intimidation, harassment and detention for their work, a new threat looms. African journalists are increasingly becoming a subject of targeted disinformation with deep fakes of journalists’ images being used to spread fake stories and scam people. 

An investigation by Thraets has found fraudulent adverts targeting African journalists and media personalities on Facebook and Instagram(Meta) with scam Ads running false and sensational stories about these journalists using random Facebook pages. 

The scams use fake copies of genuine newspapers from the countries respective to the journalists like “Vanguard Newspaper” from Nigeria, “The Daily Monitor” from Uganda, “The Herald” from Zimbabwe  and “Ghana Web” from Ghana.

From our investigation, we found that the fraudsters have targeted Journalists and media personalities in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda like Johnie Hughes, Nana Aba Anamoah, Bola Ray, Andrew Mwenda, Jeff Koinange, Rosebell Kagumire, David Hundeyin, Hopewell Chin’ono, Hugo R.P Ribatika, Mohammed Ali. Some adverts have even announced these journalists dead. 

We believe this targeting goes beyond these countries, as our investigation didn’t cover French speaking countries. In this Investigation we aim to uncover the actors behind this behavior and their intentions.

The first fake post targeted Ugandan Journalist, Rosebell Kagumire and was shared and sponsored by an account called “Voice of Dipu” and according to Facebook Transparency, the account has changed its name multiple times. 

The account appears to have been compromised based on frequent page name changes and image changes. We also identified a lack of connection in the posts shared and the adverts from the original user.

Thraets spoke to Rosebell Kagumire who confirmed that she is alive and aware of the fake stories but did fully understand the motive behind these adverts and targeted posts. 

A screenshot of the fake sponsored post on Instagram and the Facebook page transparency information of the account

Another similar post targeted Nigerian Journalist and Author, David Hundeyin. Although a different account, the post was similar to the one that targeted Rosebell Kagumire and ran a hoax story that the journalist had been arrested. Infact, the post shows David Hundeyin in handcuffs but the photo has been fabricated. 

The Nigerian Journalist has scoffed at these continued bogus posts and has urged the readers of his works and his newsletter to be aware of the scams and hoaxes. 

“Yes, I am aware of the attacks. I think the purpose of these disinformation attacks is to slowly delegitimize me in the minds of the low-information segment of my audience that is likely to fall for such scams. Even if they are later informed that I had nothing to do with the scam, the negative association between my name and an unpleasant (potentially ruinous) event will have been established in their minds.”, David Hundeyin said. 

The adverts have claimed that some of these journalists and media personalities have died and the sponsored posts have been active for weeks without any action from Meta. 

We found that the adverts have similar text patterns across the ads with clickbait titles such as; “Tragic end David Hundeyin” and the posts consistently seem to be using 5 multiple versions across most of the ads currently running that we saw in our data.

Additionally, to make a case for their hoaxes, the posts use established media houses in the respective countries such as; the Daily Monitor in Uganda, Vanguard News for Nigeria, Ghana Web for Ghana and The Herald in Zimbabwe but also former media employers for example Jeff Koinange from Kenya who worked at CNN.

Thraets also found that the scam leads to an investment called “Nearest Edge” platform that uses the images of popular journalists and media personalities across Africa. 

Although the suspicious website is currently unavailable, Wayback Machine revealed that the last time the website behind this scam was active and got an archive save was back in 2021. 

The investigation also reveals that the most recent time the website has been active was on 2024 June when there was a surge in the targeted adverts towards the journalists as seen from Facebook Ad library and also the web archive history. 

We reached out to some of the journalists that have been targeted and they shared their views about the targeted attacks; 

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Rugoho-Chin’ono believes the attacks are politically motivated and are meant to taint his reputation both locally and internationally. 

Rugoho-Chin’ono says he is aware of these attacks because he has constantly been a victim and has received many messages from people who have also been victims. Additionally, he believes he’s lucky to have a solid reputation, so few believe in the fake stories.

Rosebell Kagumire a Ugandan journalist, pan-African feminist and socio-political commentator believes that she has been a target because of her support for various online campaigns, advocacy work and reporting. 

“I don’t have a full idea why I am a target but I am involved in supporting various campaigns online and speak on issues that may have transnational opposition – women’s rights. LGBTQ+ rights, Palestinian freedom, anti-imperialism etc.”, she remarked. 

Rosebell says the attacks have taken time away from her work as she tries to figure out what was going on, if they are personal attacks and these efforts have been futile. 

“The attack did not affect my work but it took time away from my work to try and figure out what was going on. If it was a personal attack and for what. And since it was extremely difficult even with contacts to get an ear from platforms to look into this specific attack,” she said. 

The journalists have called upon tech companies to take action into the continued threats against the fourth estate especially in Africa. 

“Tech companies must equip specialized teams that are able to respond to the changing nature of threats to journalists and people in prominent public discourse spaces. It is not enough to simply tell journalists that they should use the general report features when faced with coordinated disinformation campaigns. It was shocking when those approached at Meta said they needed a specific public link to the posts in order to respond – even for them, this was not possible.”, said Rosbell Kagumire. 

“We need to see the swift responses to these natures of attacks because they are not only personal but political and aimed at silencing and sabotaging the presence, position and perspectives of the targeted journalists and leaders. More study into the motives behind these attacks in order for other actors to support journalists beyond online response.”, she emphasized. 

At the height of these scam advertisements, Meta continues to profit greatly from these fraudulent ads as they harm both the people who believe them and the innocent journalists whose credibility they damage. 

“Regarding the tech companies and social media platforms that enable these bad actors, I think that it is not a case of them merely not doing enough – they are actively complicit in incidents like these because with Facebook for example, there is essentially zero content moderation for sponsored posts. META clearly values revenues and growth-at-all-costs over providing a safe user experience, because the calculation is that the reward from achieving quarterly or annual stock price targets far outweighs the potential financial downsides of lapsed or failed platform regulation.”, David Hundeyin explained. 

Thraets reached out to Meta for a comment but at the time of publishing, the company had not responded to our requests. 

However, following our requests, they (Meta) silently reviewed some ads in the screenshots we shared and have since taken them down although many more scam ads are still up and running as of publishing our investigation. 

For any inquiries email the Research Team: