The Foundation for Freedom of Expression (FLIP) of Colombia publicly denounced that the Ministry of Defense had feigned a digital attack on official accounts in order to justify its cyberpatrol policy, in the context of the massive protests by the National strike April and May.
According to this organization, it was a “strategy to attract the attention of citizens”, while a control system was deployed on social networks, presumably to counter criticism against the government of Iván Duque.
On May 6, the networks of the @mindefensa and other entities woke up in black. What seemed like a cyberattack was instead a digital show to attack critical voices.🧵Learn more about the #PatrullasEnInternet in this video. https://t.co/FfetqUUw4lpic.twitter.com/AXjISGnnzY
— FLIP (@FLIP_org) October 29, 2021
In its investigation, FLIP reviews that on May 6, different accounts of the forces, such as the National Police, appeared with images that warned of an apparent cyber attack: “Attempt to block”it read in the profile photos. This situation lasted three hours, in which officials did not make public statements. In this regard, the Foundation warns that everything would have been part of a staging to support the subsequent surveillance applied by the authorities.
After that momentary digital stoppage, a Bell government in networks under the following slogan: “#ColombiaEsMiVerdad”. It warned about alleged false news and publications that threatened the image of the forces, while human rights organizations denounced serious cases of repression in the streets.
They have tried to block the strength of Colombia, our image, health, life. We are still standing. Much information on networks is false, generating hate and digital terrorism. Let’s speak with the truth, about what the Public Force really does for Colombians. #ColombiaEsMiVerdadpic.twitter.com/1IQfyzVwiJ
– Diego Molano Aponte (@Diego_Molano) May 6, 2021
“They have not had institutional control”
“These actions undertaken by the Ministry of Defense and the military forces, in which they have invested more than 21,000 hours, they have not had any counterweight or institutional control, and they grow in the midst of lies and opacity, “says the group. With this, they refer to the formation of a special team for surveillance through the screens, called Post of Unified Command – Ciber.
In this framework, they warn that control actions are covered by legal ambiguities, and criticized that the Ministry branded the so-called ‘fake news’ as “digital terrorism”. For FLIP, this type of classifications violates the exercise of freedom of expression, since the Ministry would be assuming the role of judge, despite the fact that this is not an original function. In addition, the criteria to qualify each post are not known either, leaving everything to the free will of the Ministry of Defense, emphasizes the Foundation.
Likewise, it questions that the forces collect information from users to categorize profiles, something that goes against the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
“There is nothing hidden”
In return, the minister, Diego Molando Aponte, rejection the accusations: “False again”He maintained from his Twitter account. Thus, he rejected the theory of self-sabotage and argued that the explanations for deploying his campaign against ‘fake news’ about the forces “were public and transparent.” With that tone, he concluded: “We defend free expression.”
However, FLIP insists on the need to establish political control over these controversial surveillance practices, considering that they harm the free exercise of journalism: “An inhibiting effect is generated in the press that stops publishing information about the actions of the public force for fear of reprisals “, they emphasize.
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