Along with removing 687 pages and accounts linked to Congress IT cell, social media giant Facebook on Monday removed a smaller number of pro-BJP accounts, saying they were indulging in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" on the social media platform. According to the US-based company, these account owners used a combination of authentic and fake accounts to share their content like 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.
Facebook, however, said the action to snap out accounts and pages was based on their behaviour, not the content they posted. These pages spent around USD 70,000 for ads on Facebook, paid for in Indian rupees. While the first ad ran in June 2014, the most recent one was posted in February 2019.
In a blog post, Facebook said it has removed 15 pages, groups and accounts for engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" on its own platform and Instagram that were linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm - Silver Touch. There are also reports that the company is associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s NaMo App.
#FacebookPurge | Facebook says it has removed 15 pages and accounts linked to individuals related to an Indian IT firm named Silver Touch, a company associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s NaMo app, reports news agency Reuters. pic.twitter.com/uSqQmFudHAâ€” News Nation (@NewsNationTV) April 1, 2019
In addition, the US-based company has removed 227 pages and 94 accounts in India for violating its policies against spam and misrepresentation. It also cracks down on 103 pages, groups and accounts for engaging in similar behaviour as part of a network that originated in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the action to remove Facebook and Instagram accounts, just days before the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections led to a war of words between the ruling BJP and the main opposition party with the former calling the move a "desperate" attempt to claim support and the latter disowning the accounts.
While the Congress reacted to the development, saying no official pages run by the INC have been taken down, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad dubbed it a "very historical development".
The development comes days after the Indian government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.
Facebook, which has been facing flak globally for instances of a user data breach, has been ramping up efforts to ensure that its platforms (that includes WhatsApp and Instagram) aren't misused to spread misinformation, especially ahead of polls in India.