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Days before Lok Sabha elections, Facebook removes 687 pages linked to Congress

Facebook said that it took down the Pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted.

SNS | New Delhi |

Facebook on Monday removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts, mostly belonging to the Congress party, just days ahead of the Lok Sabha elections 2019.

In a statement, Facebook said that the pages engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

“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 behaviour in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC),

Besides the pages belonging to the Congress, the social media giant also deleted 15 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts of individuals associated with Indian IT firm, Silver Touch.

Facebook also removed 321 Facebook Pages and accounts in India for breaking its rules against spam.

“We removed 321 Facebook Pages and accounts in India that have broken our rules against spam. Unlike the first three actions, this last activity does not represent a single or coordinated operation — instead, these are multiple sets of Pages and accounts that behaved similarly and violated our policies,” the company said in its statement.

Facebook said that it took down the Pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted.

According to the Menlo Park-based company, the administrators and account owners of the pro-Congress pages “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)”.

 

A sample showing one of the Congress-linked pages that Facebook removed. (Photo: Facebook/newsroom.fb.com)

 

The Pages were followed by about 206,000 accounts and around $39,000 was spent for ads on Facebook, “paid for in Indian rupees”, between August 2014 and to March 2019.

Commenting on the IT company, Facebook said that a total of 1 Page, 12 Facebook accounts, 1 Group and 1 Instagram account were removed.  While the group had 15,000 accounts, the page had 2.6 million followers.

 

A sample showing the content of a Page connected to the IT company. (Photo: Facebook/newsroom.fb.com)

 

Besides local news and events, the accounts removed posted on the upcoming elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the Congress.

The adspend was to the tune of $70,000, again “paid for in Indian rupees”. The first ad ran in June 2014 and the most recent ad ran in Feb 2019, Facebook said in its statement.

The company said that in both cases, the “people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities”.

The step taken by the social media giant comes days before the Lok Sabha elections 2019. Facebook is under pressure from around the world to ensure that misinformation and fake news is not spread on the platform.