Ahead of Lok Sabha Polls Facebook Removes 987 Pages, Accounts Linked to CongressSocial Media

April 02, 2019 15:52
Ahead of Lok Sabha Polls Facebook Removes 987 Pages, Accounts Linked to Congress

(Image source from: hindustantimes.com)

Ahead of Lok Sabha elections in India, the efforts to eradicate biases is prevalent across-the-board.

The social media giant Facebook on Tuesday cracked down on fake accounts and spam ahead of general elections consequently removing 687 accounts and pages linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Congress party.

The accounts were part of a coordinated network and were removed not based on content or fake news but for "inauthentic behavior" and for pushing spam, said Facebook.

Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher told reporters that Facebook has removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" in India and was 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 behavior, 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.

Further asserting that the removal was not based on the content that was shared by these groups and pages, Gleicher said: "We are constantly working to detect and stop coordinated inauthentic behavior because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people. We're taking down these pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted.”

Facebook, which has been facing flak across the world for instances of a user data breach, has been ramping up efforts to guarantee that its platforms, including WhatsApp and Instagram, are not misused to spread misinformation, especially ahead of polls in India.

In a bid to enhance transparency, the social media giant has started providing details of political ads on its platform. It is also strengthening its team of fact checkers and deploying technology tools to flag fake news.

The Election commission of India had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.

Talking about the steps taken post the removal, 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 behavior 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.

In a blog post, Facebook - which has more than 200 million users in India - said the pages and accounts removed had spent around USD 39,000 for ads on Facebook, paid for in Indian rupees. The first ad ran in August 2014 and the most recent advertisement ran in March 2019.

In addition, Facebook has also removed 15 groups, pages and accounts for engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" on Instagram and Facebook that 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 their content like political events and local news, as well as topics like the upcoming elections, the Indian government, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the INC.

By Sowmya Sangam

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lok sabha elections  facebook  social media