Facebook has deleted hundreds of accounts and pages in both India and Pakistan for “inauthentic behaviour”, explicitly tracing many back to state actors.
The company pulled down 712 accounts and 390 pages in total, tracing some to individuals associated with “an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC)” and others to employees of the Pakistani military’s “Inter-Service Public Relations” unit.
In a post on their platform Facebook detailed how they have removed 103 pages belonging to accounts related to Pakistan, which were removed for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on not only Facebook, but also on Instagram.
The individuals operating the accounts had set up military fan pages, Kashmir community pages, alongside standard hobby and news pages.
Roughly 2.8 million people in Pakistan followed one or more of these pages. While between May 2015 and December 2018 over $1,100 was spent through Facebook to promote these pages.
The pages and accounts removed by Facebook from both countries posted a mix of inflammatory, derogatory and satirical content. Often caricatures were used in posts to takedown opposition political leaders or parties.
Posting on their platform Facebook have said that in both cases: “We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted.”
“The people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”
They also noted that they didn’t find any links between the campaigns they have removed, but both India and Pakistan: “Used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.”
Indian Facebook Inauthentic Behavior
In India they removed 138 pages and over 500 Facebook accounts that had amassed a following of over 200,000 accounts according to Facebook.
The account holders advertising theses accounts roughly spent $39,000 on Facebook adverts, which was paid in Indian rupees. The first advert was pushed out in 2014 while the last went out just last month.
Facebook have stated that they also removed a further: “15 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior in India and were linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch.”
Silver Touch Technologies is an Indian-based IT company that also created India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official app.
According to Facebook: “2.6 million accounts followed this Page, about 15,000 accounts joined this Group, and around 30,000 accounts followed this Instagram account.
Both counties have elections scheduled for this year, with the Indian election due to take place on the 11 of April.
“This activity goes against what people expect on Facebook and it violates our policies. This is why we continue to invest in people and resources to improve the technology we use to detect this type of harmful behavior, and we will continue to take action on an ongoing basis to address it, Facebook state.