New Delhi, April 1: In a startling revelation ahead of general elections, Facebook on Monday announced it has removed 687 spam Facebook Pages and accounts connected to individuals associated with the Congress Party’s IT cell.
These Pages and accounts spent around Rs 27 lakh for ads on Facebook. The first ad ran in August 2014 and the most recent ad ran in March 2019, Facebook said.
The individuals engaged in this coordinated inauthentic behaviour used fake accounts and joined various Groups to disseminate their content and increase engagement on their own Pages, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook.
“The Page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including topics like the upcoming elections, candidates’ views, the INC (Indian National Congress) 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 telephonic conversation from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
“The majority of these accounts had already been suspended by our automated systems,” Gleicher added.
Facebook said it discovered the coordinated inauthentic behaviour in February.
The social media giant also discovered spam activities carried out by an Indian IT firm — Silver Touch which runs the pro-BJP page “The India Eye”.
It removed 15 Pages, Groups and accounts linked to the firm.
“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,” Gleicher said.
Silver Touch spent over Rs 48 lakh for ads on Facebook. The first ad ran in June 2014 and the most recent ad ran in February 2019, Gleicher said.
In addition to these, Facebook also removed 321 Facebook Pages and accounts in India that broke the social networking giant’s rules against spam.
“These are multiple sets of Pages and accounts that behaved similarly and violated our policies,” Gleicher said.