The ongoing confrontations between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the regular army in Sudan triggered a wave of misinformation. Shocking images and videos purporting to show recent scenes of the clashes surfaced, and unproven statements falsely attributed to Sudanese officials flooded social media.
A Verified Twitter Account Claimed the Death of the RSF Leader
A Twitter account subscribed to Twitter Blue claiming to represent the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces purported the group’s leader died during the confrontations. However, the claim was false. The Twitter account was not the actual and official RSF’s.
The event happened after Elon Musk, Twitter’s new CEO, removed legacy blue ticks, introducing a new policy obligating the users to pay $84 a year to keep the blue tick. Following Musk's decision, thousands of verified Twitter accounts have lost their verification sign, including the Sudanese paramilitary group’s account. The @RSFSudann account purporting to represent the group gained a verification blue tick, while the actual RSF account, @RSFSudan, does not have one.
The fake tweet, seen by more than 1M users, falsely claimed that RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, died from injuries sustained in a combat.
The fake Twitter account tried to be legitimate, looking similar to the real RSF’s Twitter account. The copycat joined the platform in September 2012, which is a sign that the person or people behind it changed the account’s information and deleted the oldest tweets before changing the account’s identity information, imitating the paramilitary group.
In 2013, the account retweeted posts from the Rassd News Network, an alternative Egyptian media news source that appeared amid the 2011 revolution in Egypt, according to the Middle East Eye.
According to the media outlet, an hour before the fake tweet, the real RSF account tweeted that the Sudanese army had taken down the paramilitary’s website and broadcasted “immoral messages.” The account accused the armed forces of using state institutions to spread misinformation and “carrying out dirty work that violates the privacy of citizens.”
Twitter Removes the Blue Ticks From Non-paying Users
Public figures, politicians, and government institutions were among Twitter users who lost their verification blue checks as part of Elon Musk’s new policy. Organizations stated the existence of copycat accounts popping up and imitating the original ones, including the New York Government account, which got in a row with a copycat claiming authenticity.
News reports said Musk previously admitted that he paid for some celebrities, including author Stephen King and basketball player Lebron James to keep their blue verification ticks. However, other famous figures like Pope Francis and Bill Gates have lost their tick as the CEO pushes the paid subscription service Twitter Blue after months of delays.
Twitter Blue was launched last year following Musk’s takeover of the social media platform for $44bn. The subscription charges the users a monthly $8 for the blue checkmark and other features.
The Ongoing Clashes Between the RSF and the Sudanese Army
The escalating tensions started when the paramilitary group of Rapid Support Forces and the regular army of Sudan exchanged gunfire last week in Khartoum and other neighboring cities. Media outlets reported attacks on the RSF bases and explosions in the capital.
According to the World Health Organization, the confrontations killed at least 413 and left 3,500 people wounded since the clashes broke out last week.
Amid the escalation of tensions, the RSF leader, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, best known as Hemedti, stated during an interview with Al Jazeera that his paramilitary group is requesting a humanitarian ceasefire, but “the other side does not want to.”
Today, the Sudanese army declared a three-day ceasefire during the holy occasion of Eid al-Fitr. The statement came out hours after the RSF said it was ready for a 72-hours ceasefire. However, Reuters reported heavy firing in Khartoum after the truce declaration. According to the news agency, the source of the firing was unclear, but there are also airstrikes heard “from time to time.”
From his side and in his first speech since the conflict erupted, the Sudan army’s commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan says the military is committed to the transition to civilian rule. Meanwhile, embassies of other countries in Sudan are examining ways to evacuate their staff and citizens from the area.