Social media giant Facebook announced on Monday that it had removed pages, groups and accounts originating from Pakistan and India for violating the company’s policies on coordinated inauthentic behaviour or spam.
The pages, groups and accounts were removed in four separate takedowns, each of which was distinct and unconnected.
“Today we removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram as part of a network that originated in Pakistan,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Facebook’s Cybersecurity Policy in a statement on the company’s website.
In India, Facebook removed two separate and unrelated networks of pages, groups and accounts which were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour.
“We removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour in India,” said Gleicher about the first network, adding it was linked to individuals associated with an Indian National Congress (INC) IT Cell.
The administrators of these pages and account owners would typically post about local news, political issues, upcoming Indian elections, candidate views, the INC and criticism of political opponents including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Another 15 pages, groups and accounts connected to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch, were also removed.
“They posted about local news and political events, including topics like the Indian government, the upcoming elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the INC. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch,” said Gleicher.
INC in a tweet on its official account said no official pages run by the party had been taken down and pages run by verified volunteers were also unaffected.
An additional 227 pages and 94 accounts were removed for violating Facebook’s spam and misrepresentation policies in India.
Nathaniel Gleicher said these pages and accounts were engaging in behaviours which expressly violated Facebook’s policies. “This included using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names; impersonating someone else; posting links to malware; and posting massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages in order to drive traffic to websites they are affiliated with in order to make money. Unlike the takedowns for coordinated inauthentic behaviour, this activity was not part of one coordinated operation.”
Last week, Facebook removed a social media network in the Philippines and took the unusual step of linking it to a businessman who said he had managed the president’s online election campaign in 2016. It has taken similar actions recently against accounts in Russia and Iran.