Environmental group Mother Nature’s founder alleges that the advocacy group’s Facebook page was hijacked after authorities arrested three activists earlier this month, one of whom was a page administrator.
Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who was deported in 2015 and blocked from reentering the country, said he realized the group’s Facebook page was compromised on September 4, when he found an email saying he had been removed as a page administrator.
The Spain-based activist said he received the email at 1:20 a.m. in his local time, one day after three Mother Nature activists were arrested while producing a campaign video to call for lake Boeng Tamok’s conservation. Gonzalez-Davidson said he suspected that the activists were threatened or coerced to give authorities the password to the group’s Facebook page.
He sent a request to Facebook to suspend the page temporarily, as well as the personal pages of the three detained activists, Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea and Phuong Keorasmey, he said.
“I hope that in two or three weeks, I can manage the Mother Nature pages again,” Gonzalez-Davidson said.
Via a public relations representative in Cambodia, Facebook said it had received a request from a human rights actor to suspend the Mother Nature Cambodia page after some members, including a page administrator, were detained by government security officials. The company said it had secured the page under the same procedures it follows when a page is hacked.
Phnom Penh municipal police spokesperson San Sokseyha said he was not familiar with the specifics of the Mother Nature case, but in general the police would confiscate all evidence related to a case, including technology, and then the court has the “right to investigate” the accused persons’ devices.
Chea Pov, the head of the Interior Ministry’s technology crimes department, did not respond to questions.
Gonzalez-Davidson activist also said he had noticed two pages trying to impersonate Mother Nature Cambodia: a page called Father of Nature Cambodia with 1,447 followers, and another called Mother of Nature Cambodia with 708 followers. Both pages, which were started on June 17 and 18, respectively, have profile pictures stylized like Mother Nature’s logo.
Gonzalez-Davidson called the impersonating accounts “crude,” but he said he is hoping the social media company will remove the accounts. The accounts remained active as of Monday morning, but neither had posted since September 1, when both accounts posted the same four nature photos.
Based on archived links in Google searches, the real advocacy group page had more than 353,000 followers, and Gonzalez-Davidson said in a Facebook post that the group’s videos had been seen more than 20 million times over the past four years.
Among its campaigns, the groups’ sustained criticism of sand mining in Koh Kong province for export preceded Cambodia’s decision to ban sand exports for environmental reasons.
Additional reporting by Danielle Keeton-Olsen