As part of Facebook’s crackdown on “fake” and “troll” accounts, the social media giant announced Monday it deleted a significant number of pages and groups based in both India and Pakistan for breaches of the company’s policies.
According to Facebook, the majority of the accounts engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior and spam.” Many of those were operated by corporations, political organizations, and government agencies. The users managing these accounts also bought Facebook ads to boost traffic, and some of the pages had more than one million followers. Some were also linked to Instagram accounts, which Facebook deleted.
“We have removed Pages, Groups, and accounts for violating Facebook’s policies on coordinated inauthentic behavior or spam,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy in a company press release. “Today’s action includes four separate takedowns—each distinct and unconnected.”
Many of the removed accounts based in Pakistan were operated by members of the Inter-Services Public Relations, an organization within Pakistan’s military. These pages and groups posted content related to the Pakistani military, the Kashmir community, and general Pakistani news. Some of the content posted was also critical of Indian political leaders and the Indian armed forces.
Across the border in India, Facebook investigators discovered many pages which were managed by the Indian National Congress (INC), a left-leaning political party. According to Facebook, the Indian-based pages frequently posted content which the company’s algorithms identified as “spam.” The pages were also critical of some of the INC’s political enemies, specifically the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to a report from Reuters.
Not all of the Indian-based pages were run by the INC, and the BJP also lost accounts and groups as well. At this time, it appears that none of the accounts were run directly by either party, but rather through “private citizens” either allied with the political parties or directly employed by them. Still, many Indian politicians are already calling for increased regulations to prevent use of similar pages in the future.
“The fact that partisans on both sides resorted to such tactics is a troubling feature,” said a spokesperson from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which Reuters’ reports assisted Facebook in the investigation.
The general thought by some people is this move by Facebook will help calm tensions between India and Pakistan, which have been ramping up since the two nations sparred earlier this year in the Kashmir region. Others might be concerned the attempted propaganda campaigns represent a new front in the current conflict.