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Election 2019

Facebook removes 687 pages and accounts linked to Indian National Congress

Facebook has said that it has removed 687 pages and accounts linked to individuals, who were associated with the IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC) Party.

The pages were removed as a part of social media’s attempt to crack down on fake accounts and spam. The removed pages were a part of a coordinated networks and were removed as they exhibited inauthentic behaviour and for were pushing spam.

The banned page admins and account owners posted local news and political issues, including news on upcoming elections, INC and criticism of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) party.

According to Facebook, the removed pages and accounts had spent around U.S. $ 39,000 for ads on Facebook. The first was posted in August 2014 and the most recent ad was up on March 2019.

Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook – Nathaniel Gleicher, said, “While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC (Indian National Congress) IT Cell. When we remove one of these networks, the reason we remove them 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. That’s the basic reason for removal.”

He further added, “We are constantly working to detect and stop coordinated inauthentic behaviour because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted.”

Talking about Congress, Gleicher said, “We have reached out to the INC to educate them about what we have seen and answer questions they have. We have also reached out to policy makers and government to ensure that they understand the types of behaviour we are seeing and what we are learning”.

For the records, Facebook has been criticised globally for cases of user data breach. As a response, it has ramped up efforts to ensure that its platforms aren’t misused to spread misinformation, especially when India is gearing up for General Elections, starting April 11, 2019.

Besides, it has now also started providing details of the political ads on its platform to enhance transparency. It is strengthening its team of fact checkers and is applying technology tools to flag the fake news.

It is to be noted that Government of India has warned the social media platforms it will take strong action against them if the platform is used to influence the elections through undesirable means.

Separately, Facebook has also removed 15 pages, groups and accounts that were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour and were linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm – Silver Touch. These account owners used a combination of authentic and fake accounts to share content – local news, political events, upcoming elections, BJP and alleged misconduct of INC.

These pages spent around U.S. $ 70,000 on Facebook ads. The first ad was up in June 2014 and the most recent ad was published in February 2019.

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