Facebook, TikTok Mop Off Accounts Glorifying Wanted Nigerian Terrorist

Following HumAngle’s investigation, the social media platforms removed the most active imposter accounts and appeared to have restricted others. 

Facebook and TikTok have done a massive clean-up of impostor accounts whitewashing Bello Turji, a terrorist group leader in North West Nigeria who found an appeal on the internet sometime in 2021 after masterminding some of the deadliest attacks against civilians in the region. 

In January, a HumAngle digital investigation revealed that fake accounts from different social networks were opened in Bello Turji’s name for malicious reasons, including clout chasing and sharp practices by influencers gathering followers for merchandise. The impostor accounts helped the terrorist leader to enjoy some acceptance and patronage on social media.

The imposters preyed on the vulnerability of many internet users to spread terror, demonstrating the terrorist’s kidnap-for-ransom escapades and celebrating his cruelty. During mass kidnap cases in the northwestern region, the ghost accounts amplified the terrorist’s demands from the government, indirectly spreading his campaign of violence and creating panic for unsuspecting individuals.

Following HumAngle’s investigation, Facebook and TikTok removed the most active accounts and appeared to have restricted others. During our research, we contacted Meta to report some suspicious accounts. Most of the reported accounts were removed afterwards. 

However, some have found a new trick to bypass Meta’s monitoring software. While most accounts using the name ‘Bello Kachalla Turji’ have been taken down, some resurfaced with a simple yet effective tactic – altering the spelling to ‘Tirji Bello’ or ‘Ballo Turji’. This alteration has allowed them to evade detection from the tech company and exploit the online platform for their antics.

The most active impostor TikTok account, Bello_Turji_Backup, has also been removed. With over 20,000 followers, the account played a disturbing publicist role for the terrorist, posting his videos and praising his horrific actions.

Many unwitting TikTok users interact with Turji’s impersonators when they display actions associated with the notorious terrorist. In one such post, one impostor posted a video, posing as Turji walking into a deep forest and saying: “I am going to the place where we kept some people we squeezed recently.” One TikTok follower asked the fake account user with a laughing emoji: “Are you the one (Turji)? If you are, I would like us to talk. I have a boyfriend I want you to kidnap?”

Among the dozen accounts we discovered, TikTok has removed the eight most active ones, including the bello_turji_backup page. However, some accounts opened in the terrorist’s name that appears to be deliberately misspelt have also not been removed.

Unlike Facebook and TikTok, Instagram and X/Twitter have failed to remove accounts promoting the terrorist’s operations on their platforms. However, there has been little to no activity on those accounts since we published our investigation about five months ago. The three impostor accounts we spotlighted for promoting hate speech on X/Twitter have been conspicuously inactive. Many of the Instagram accounts are still active but make fewer posts. 

Meanwhile, both X and Instagram have policies prohibiting terrorism-related content. In a community guideline post, Instagram says its platform is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organised crime, or hate groups. The X public interest exception policy also prohibits content and accounts that promote violent extremism. It states, “Content that threatens or glorifies violence can result in some of the most severe and immediate harms our rules are meant to address, and public-interest exceptions are therefore unlikely.”

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Ibrahim Adeyemi

Deputy Investigations Editor at HumAngle. Ibrahim covers conflict and humanitarian crises with a special interest in terrorism financing. While his works have tackled the routine of criminality and injustice on many occasions, they have also earned him both local and international journalism accolades, including the One World Media Award, the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, the Wole Soyinka Awards for Investigative Reporting, and recently the Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Award for African journalists.

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