Facebook said it removed hundreds of pages and accounts in India, including pro-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) page 'The India Eye' and 687 pages and accounts linked to the Indian National Congress's IT cell (Congress), ten days ahead of a national election.
The company's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in a blog these pages, groups and accounts were engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or spam.
Facebook stressed it was taking down these pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted
However, a few journalists reported that other pages which had a history of spreading misinformation, also went missing on Monday. BOOM had fact-checked Postcard News last week.
Post Card Fans has been taken down by Facebook. Had 1m+ likes.— Venkat Ananth (@venkatananth) April 1, 2019
The social media platform on Monday released a statement about the large scale crackdown in India and Pakistan that included four separate takedowns that were distinct and unconnected.
- In Pakistan, it removed 103 pages, groups and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram
- In India, it removed 687 Facebook pages and accounts
- In addition it had removed 15 pages, groups and accounts linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch
- Lastly it had removed 321 pages and accounts in India that violated its rules against spam
Congress reacted to the statement and said no official pages or verified volunteer accounts had been taken down. The party said it was awaiting a response from Facebook to provide a list of all the pages and accounts that were suspended.
This is to clarify no official pages run by INC have been taken down. Additionally, all pages run by our verified volunteers are also unaffected.— Congress (@INCIndia) April 1, 2019
In the mean time, we are awaiting a response from Facebook to provide us a list of all pages/accounts that they have taken down.
687 pages and accounts linked to Congress
The takedown included 138 pages and 549 accounts. Around $39,000 was spent on ads, the amount paid for in Indian rupees. The first ad ran in August 2014 and the most recent ad ran in March 2019.
Facebook said the individuals used fake accounts and joined various groups to spread their content and increase engagement on their own pages.
Admins of these pages posted about local news, politics, candidate views and criticism of the 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.
'The India Eye'
Separately, the platform also removed 15 pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram in India, that were pro -Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
The takedown included 1 page, 12 Facebook accounts, 1 group and 1 Instagram account.
About 2.6 million accounts followed the page, about 15,000 accounts joined this group, and around 30,000 accounts followed this Instagram account.
Around $70,000 was spent on ads, paid for in Indian rupees. The first ad ran in June 2014 and the most recent ad ran in Feb 2019.
The admins of these pages and account owners used a combination of authentic and fake accounts to share their content. They posted political content including posts about the BJP-led government, and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the Congress.
"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch."
Read the full statement here.
BOOM is a part of Facebook's Third Party Fact-Checking network in India. The above action did not involve the platform's fact-checking partners.