Facebook removes 687 pages linked to Congress IT Cell for 'inauthentic behaviour, spam'
In a startling revelation ahead of the general elections, Facebook on Monday announced it has removed 687 spam Facebook Pages and accounts connected to individuals associated with the Congress party's IT cell.
"The individuals behind this activity used fake accounts, the majority of which had already been detected and suspended by our automated systems, and joined various Groups to disseminate their content and increase engagement on their own Pages," it said.
The Page admins and account owners, Facebook said, typically posted about local news and political issues, including topics like the upcoming elections, candidate views, the Congress and criticism of political opponents including 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," it said.
Facebook said it's constantly working to detect and stop coordinated inauthentic behavior because it doesn't want its services to be used to manipulate people. "We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted."
The people behind this activity, Facebook said, coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for action against them.
Facebook also shared a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages.
Talking about the steps taken post the removal, Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel 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".
He explained that 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," Gleicher said.
Facebook also removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on FB and Instagram as part of a network that originated in Pakistan.
“The individuals behind this activity used fake accounts to operate military fan Pages; general Pakistani interest Pages; Kashmir community Pages; and hobby and news Pages,” Facebook said.
These individuals frequently posted about local and political news including topics like the Indian government, political leaders and military, it further said.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that it was linked to employees of the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) of the Pakistani military,” it said.
Facebook, which has been facing flak globally for instances of user data breach, has been ramping up efforts to ensure that its platforms (that includes WhatsApp and Instagram) aren't misused to spread misinformation, especially ahead of polls in India.
It has recently started providing details of political ads on its platform in a bid to enhance transparency. It is also strengthening its team of fact checkers and deploying technology tools to flag fake news.
With ensuing general elections, 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.
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