Facebook removes Congress’ IT cell accounts for “inauthentic behaviour”
Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy said they had engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" in India.
Facebook said it had removed 687 pages and individual accounts associated with the Congress party’s IT cell.
The social media giant said the accounts were removed for “inauthentic behaviour” and for pushing spam.
Facebook said the pages and accounts removed had spent around Rs 27 lakhs for ads. The first ad ran in August 2014 and the last one in March 2019.
The page admins and account owners posted local news and political issues – upcoming elections, candidate views, the Indian National Congress (INC), and criticism of political opponents including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Indian government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.
Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher said that the majority of the 687 pages and accounts had already been detected and suspended by its automated systems.
The people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities. “The reason we remove one of these networks is because of their coordinated inauthentic behaviour, that they are using network of fake accounts to conceal their identity....to mislead who's behind them," said Nathaniel Gleicher.
Nathaniel added that the pages and accounts were being taken down only for their behaviour and not for the content they posted.
Facebook has faced constant criticism for instances of user data breach. Ahead of polls in India, the company claims to be making efforts to ensure that its platforms—including WhatsApp and Instagram—are not used to spread misinformation. "We don't want our services to be used to manipulate people," said Gleicher.
Recently, the company has started providing details of political ads on its platform to improve transparency. It has also strengthened its team of fact checkers and deployed tools to flag fake news.
Gleicher said, "We have reached out to the INC to educate them about what we have seen and answer questions they have.” He added that the company had also reached out to policymakers and the government. Facebook has assured them that the company observes and analyses such types of behaviour.
Facebook has also removed 15 pages, groups, and accounts that were linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch for similar behaviour. These account owners spent around Rs 48 lakhs for ads on Facebook and used a combination of authentic and fake accounts to share content.
Facebook has removed 103 pages, groups and accounts—on its platform and Instagram—from a network that originated in Pakistan. The individuals behind this activity used fake accounts to operate military fan pages, general Pakistani interest pages, and Kashmir community pages.
"Our investigation found that it was linked to employees of the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) of the Pakistani military," said Gleicher. This network spent over Rs 75,000 for ads that was paid for in US dollars and Pakistani rupees. The first ad ran in May 2015 and the most recent ad ran in December 2018.
In addition, the US-based company has removed 227 pages and 94 accounts in India for violating its policies against spam and misrepresentation. The reasons were the violation of Facebook policies, usage of fake accounts, and posting links to malware.
Some accounts were also taken down as they posted massive amounts of content across groups and pages to drive traffic to websites to make money.