Indian General Elections

BIG Embarrassment: 687 Congress-linked Pages, Pakistan-origin Network Removed By Facebook In 'coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour' Crackdown

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Published:


  • Facebook has removed 687 pages linked to the IT cell of the Congress party days before Lok Sabha elections
  • Facebook has published a detailed post regarding its crackdown, citing 'coordinated inauthentic behaviour' as the reason
  • Along with action on the pages linked to the Congress party, Facebook has also removed 103 accounts and pages linked to a Pakistan-origin network

In a major jolt to Congress days before the Lok Sabha elections begin, social-networking platform Facebook has removed 687 pages linked to the IT cell of the Rahul Gandhi-led party. This initiative has been done by the social media giant to avoid any violations of the election's model code of conduct.

Facebook wrote a detailed post on the micro-blogging platform elaborating on the same.

"We removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts — the majority of which had already been detected and suspended by our automated systems — that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC)," wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook in an elaborate post on the social media platform.

Adding that these posts, groups, and pages are created to mislead the social media users of their activities, he further wrote, "We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted."

He also said that people coordinated with one another to carry forward the activity and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, which Facebook took into account and used as a basis of their takedown. 

"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," the post further said. 

As per Facebook, here are the numbers:

  • Presence on Facebook: 138 Pages and 549 Facebook accounts.
  • Followers: About 206,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages.
  • Advertising: Around $39,000 USD in spending 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.

Here's one of the samples posted by Facebook:

Meanwhile, the Congress Party is yet to respond on the latest development. Facebook has shared relevant information with policymakers and technology platforms.

READ: BLISTERING: PM Modi Tears Into Congress For Coining 'Hindu Terror', Says The Party Will 'never Be Free From This Sin'

Along with the cleanup on the pages linked to the Congress party, Facebook has also removed 103 accounts linked to the Pakistani military employees.

Stating that the individuals behind the activities used fake accounts concealing their identities, Facebook added that their investigation found out that the accounts were linked to the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) of Pakistani military. 

"Today we removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook 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. They also frequently posted about local and political news including topics like the Indian government, political leaders and military. 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," the elaborate post read. 

A sample of the content posted by one of the pages removed by Facebook:

Furthermore, Facebook removed 321 pages and accounts in India that have broken the rules against spam. These were multiple sets of Pages and accounts that behaved similarly and violated our policies.

READ: 'Am Joining Congress In Delhi, Will Contest From Mumbai', Says 'KRK' Kamaal R Khan. Twitterati See Through It