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Facebook claimed they were taken down based on behaviour, and not content. They coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, the company said.

Facebook removes 687 pages accounts associated with Indian National Congress IT cell
Atom Social Media Monday, April 01, 2019 - 15:27

With the first phase of the General Elections just 10 days away, Facebook has announced that it has removed hundreds of pages, groups and accounts for violating Facebook’s policies on ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ or spam. This included 687 Facebook pages and accounts linked to the Congress – the majority of which had already been detected and suspended by Facebook’s automated systems. These pages, Facebook claimed, were engaged in ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC).

“We removed 15 Facebook pages, groups and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour in India and were linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch. We removed 321 Facebook pages and accounts in India that have broken our rules against spam. Unlike the first three actions, this last activity does not represent a single or coordinated operation – instead, these are multiple sets of pages and accounts that behaved similarly and violated our policies,” Facebook said in a statement.

Apart from this, Facebook has also removed 103 pages, groups and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network that originated in Pakistan.

“The operations we found to be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour were two distinct sets of activity in India and one network in Pakistan. We didn’t find any links between the campaigns we’ve removed today, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook said.

It further added that these accounts and pages were taken down based on their behaviour, not the content they posted. The basis of Facebook’s action was that these accounts coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves. Facebook said that it has shared relevant information with policymakers and technology platforms.

The 687 Facebook Pages and accounts in India comprised 138 pages and 549 Facebook accounts with about 2,06,000 followers following one or more of these pages. These pages and accounts, which reportedly belonged to INC, were allegedly using fake accounts and joined various groups to disseminate their content and increase engagement on their own pages.


Sample of the content posted by some of these Pages

“The page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including topics like the upcoming elections, candidate views, the INC and criticism of political opponents including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell,” Facebook said.

Around $39,000 was spent by these pages and accounts for ads on Facebook, paid for in Indian rupees. The first ad ran in August 2014 and the most recent ad ran in March 2019.

In another instance, Facebook removed 15 Pages, Groups and accounts associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch. These were reportedly engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram in India.


Sample of the content posted by some of these Pages

They comprised one Facebook  page, 12 Facebook accounts, 1 group and 1 Instagram account with a total of about 2.6 million accounts following the page. About 15,000 accounts joined the group, and around 30,000 accounts followed the Instagram account. Around $70,000 was spent for ads on Facebook, paid for in Indian rupees. The first ad ran in June 2014 and the most recent ad ran in Feb 2019.
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