Social media giant Facebook on Monday said it has removed 687 pages and accounts linked to individuals associated with an IT cell of the Congress party as it cracks down on fake accounts and spam.
These accounts, it said, were part of a coordinated networks and were removed for “inauthentic behaviour” and for pushing spam.
Besides, Facebook has also removed 103 pages, groups and accounts on its platform and Instagram for engaging in similar behaviour as part of a network that originated in Pakistan.
Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher told reporters that Facebook has removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts – the majority of which had already been detected and suspended by its automated systems – that engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT cell of the Indian National Congress (INC).
“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 told reporters.
He asserted that the removal was not based on the content that was shared by these pages and groups.
“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,” he 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.
“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.
In a blog post, Facebook – which has over 200 million users in India – said the pages and accounts removed had spent around $39,000 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 addition, the US-based company has removed 227 pages and 94 accounts in India for violating its policies against spam and misrepresentation.