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KAMPALA — Social media platform Facebook at the weekend shut down several accounts linked to President Yoweri Museveni, and officials have now come out to explain that the targeted accounts were being used to manipulate public opinion and spread harmful propaganda ahead of this week’s presidential election.

The U.S.-based social media giant said Monday it linked the network of accounts to the Uganda’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

Facebook said the ministry “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular than they were.”

“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour) to target public debate ahead of the election,” Facebook’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, was quoted by AFP as saying.

He added: “They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in groups to make them appear more popular that they were. Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network.”

A smartphone user shows the Facebook application on his phone in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, in this photo illustration, May 2, 2013. Facebook Inc’s mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months of the year as the social network sold more ads to users on smartphones and tablets, partially offsetting higher spending which weighed on profits. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – Tags: SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS) – RTXZ81J

The Associated Press also quoted presidential spokesman Don Wanyama as saying Facebook was “interfering in the electoral process of Uganda.”

He also said, “If people wanted to have the evidence of outside interference, now they have it.”

Voters in Uganda will cast ballots Thursday in a general election that pits President Museveni against 10 challengers, including popular singer-turned-legislator Bobi Wine.

The lead-up to the vote has been marred by increasing violence, numerous human rights violations, and restrictions imposed on opposition candidates and supporters.

The arrests and detentions in November of Wine and Patrick Oboi Amuriat, another presidential candidate, as well as other members of the political opposition, triggered riots and protests. At least 54 people were killed.

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