Facebook, in four separate deletions, removed various pages, groups and accounts from India and Pakistan for violating its policies and engaging in inauthentic behavior or spam. The social network has clarified that the deletions were not due to the type of content published by these pages, but to inauthentic behavior and the offer to mislead users about their identity.
One set of pages, groups and accounts were linked to the IT cell of the Indian National Congress (INC), while another set of pages were linked to an IT company called Silver Touch Technologies. The IT company’s website says that it is “made up of the central government, various state governments and their complementary programs to deliver IT solutions,” including the National Informatics Center (NIC), Unique Identification Authority of India ( UIDAI), Government of Uttar Pradesh.
In the case of the Pakistani pages, they were linked to employees of Inter Services Public Relations Pakistan (ISPR), which is the media wing of the Pakistani army. The fourth set of takedowns was not tied to any particular political party, but to people promoting spam and sharing malware links on the social network.
“We are looking here for pages, groups designed to appear independent, but are actually linked to an organization or political party and we try to hide or hide this link,” explained Nathaniel Gleicher, Chief of Cyber Security Policy, in a telephone interaction. with the indianexpress.com.
“These networks of pages, groups and accounts, which include fake accounts, were working to mislead people as to who is behind those pages. For example, some of them would pretend to be a news page, but say that it is run by a political party. Some of them worked in groups, posting content on Instagram and WhatsApp accounts as well. Our team of researchers worked to understand and eliminate these groups, “he added.
According to Gleicher, the goal is to make sure people are aware of deceptive behavior on these pages. “These takedowns are not due to the content or who is behind these assets. We do not trust the content to determine this type of behavior, “he reiterated.
“In each case detailed below, the people behind this activity coordinated with each other and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis of our action,” notes a detailed company blog post.
In India, Facebook said it removed 687 pages and accounts, which it said were linked to people associated with an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC). Gleicher said they then approached Congress and explained why this behavior was problematic and violated the policies of the social network. We contacted the INC for an official response or statement on this matter, but we do not have one yet. A response from the Congress party is expected.
In total, Facebook says there were 138 pages and 549 Facebook accounts involved in this particular recall and approximately 206,000 accounts followed one or more of these pages. The pages often publish content on topics such as the upcoming elections, the views of the candidates, the INC, and criticism of political opponents, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The mentioned pages are Jo Feku, “Baba Bhrashtachari” and the content shared included asking voters to choose wisely and choose the Congress party in the elections.
However, the people running these accounts tried to hide their identity and often used fake accounts to spread the content. This network spent around $ 39,000 on Facebook ads, paid in Indian rupees.
Pakistani pages linked to Pakistani military employees.
Facebook said it removed 103 pages, groups and accounts from Pakistan for such “inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.” Some of the content posted by these pages, groups included local and political news on topics like the government of India, news about Kashmir, etc. The pages featured on the blog are “Halka PhulKa”, “Kashmir for Kashmiris” and Painter’s Palette. One of the messages he shared praised Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for the release of the wing commander Abhinandan.
Facebook says that while the creators behind this network tried to hide their identities, their investigation found that several of the accounts were linked to ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) employees of the Pakistani military.
A total of 24 pages, 57 Facebook accounts, seven groups and 15 Instagram accounts were part of this Pakistani network. More than one page had approximately 2.8 million accounts following them, while some of the groups had more than 4,700 members. The Pakistan-based network spent around $ 1,100 on paid ads on Facebook, which were paid for in US dollars and Pakistani rupees, the investigation showed.
Facebook said it also removed 15 pages, groups and accounts for this type of behavior and found it was linked to TI firm Silver Touch. Facebook said that content shared on this page would be posted on topics such as the Indian government, the upcoming elections, the BJP, and the alleged misconduct of political opponents, including the INC. The page that was removed here was The India Eye, which recently posted content praising Mission Prime Minister Shakti, while berating the UPA government. We contacted Silver Touch Technologies, but the contact number on the website did not respond.
In this set, there was only one Facebook page, 12 Facebook accounts, one group, and one Instagram account. However, The India Eye had almost 2.6 million followers, which is much larger compared to the pages linked to the other sets. The group had 15,000 members, while the Instagram account had 30,000 followers. The group spent around $ 70,000 on ads.
Upon reaching the fourth group, Facebook revealed that it removed 227 pages and 94 accounts in India for violating anti-spam and misrepresentation policies and that this removal is not part of a coordinated operation.
“We routinely remove accounts and Pages that engage in this type of harmful, often financially motivated behavior such as advertisements for fraudulent products or weight loss” remedies. The people behind this behavior create Pages using fake accounts or several accounts with the same names, “says the Facebook blog.
When asked what ultimately caused Facebook to remove these networks, given that some of them have been around for a while, Gleicher said they relied on technical indicators to detect misdirection and spam tactics. “We have automated systems that are in place to detect and remove fake accounts. “So a part of our job was to uncover the hidden identities, which many of these pages relied on to misrepresent themselves to the audience,” he added.
Facebook has said it relies on a global operations team to detect this type of behavior, although it also has local and cultural experts. However, the company said detection of such behavior was a work in progress. Where the analysis of the content shared by these pages goes, Facebook said that this was being done by the American think tank The Atlantic Council, which would publish its own separate report on this topic.