Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, announced on Wednesday that its security team had detected a possible hacking attempt on Palestinian accounts with millions of followers

Tech / Monday, 30 October 2023 15:02

Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, announced on Wednesday that its security team had detected a possible hacking attempt on Palestinian accounts with millions of followers. As a precaution, the company temporarily blocked these accounts while attempting to reach their owners.

According to archived descriptions in the Google search engine, the @eye.on.palestine Instagram account had over 6 million followers before it suddenly went dark on Wednesday. The backup account, @eye.on.palestine2, was also unavailable, along with its associated Facebook account and Threads account.

The Instagram and Threads accounts were back online on Friday morning. The Telegram channel "Eye on Palestine" mentioned that the issues arose due to continuous reports of the page being compromised and technical problems, which they had been working diligently to resolve in recent days.

The group stated that they closed their Facebook page "due to constant message deletions, and we are currently not present there."

They added that the return of their pages was facilitated through connections with Meta.

The accounts primarily focused on sharing media content from Gaza, including videos and images of wounded individuals. The material had not been independently verified by international journalists. It remains unclear who posted the content on the pages.

When visited on Wednesday, the Instagram pages displayed a message saying, "Sorry, this page isn't available."

The disruption of these accounts sparked anger among followers. Some interpreted the disappearance of the pages as an example of anti-Palestinian censorship.

However, on Wednesday evening, Meta stated that it had disabled the accounts for security reasons.

"These accounts were initially blocked for security reasons following signs of compromise, and we are working to contact the account owners to ensure they regain access," said Meta spokesperson Andy Stone.

"We did not disable these accounts because of any content they shared," he added.

Stone did not provide further details regarding Meta's investigation into signs of compromise, but he mentioned that the investigation is ongoing.

As of Wednesday, NBC News was unable to reach the account owners for comments, including via email.

In a message on Thursday morning, Stone reported that the company had managed to contact the account administrators and that the accounts would be reactivated.

"These accounts were initially blocked for security reasons after signs of compromise were detected," Stone said in a text message. "We have helped the account owners regain access, and they can reactivate their accounts."

The Telegram account "Eye on Palestine" had previously reported in May that it had received a warning from Instagram about a hacker attempting to gain access to its account. The Telegram account remained online as of Wednesday evening and had over 441,000 subscribers.

The @EyeonPalestine account on Instagram was listed as non-existent. It is unclear when the account disappeared. Internet archives show it was active as of October 13. X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Friday morning, this account remained disabled.

All the various accounts were listed together in a Linktree account.

Accessing images, videos, and other information from Gaza proved challenging for both professional journalists and social media users due to communication and power outages in the area. This heightened interest in any account claiming to have fresh media content from the region.