Facebook has sharpened the axe and removed hundreds of propaganda pages in India and Pakistan. It’s one of Facebook’s biggest culls yet as it tried to rein in false political propaganda.
Controversially, Facebook has linked many of these pages to the Pakistan military itself. Other pages were linked to India’s second-largest political party, Indian National Congress.
According to Facebook, the pages were reportedly set up and run by fake profiles, which then dispersed “inauthentic” information about the military and politics.
Pakistan Military Propaganda?
In a post by Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, the company confirmed the removal of 103 Pakistan pages and groups.
“Today we removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram as part of a network that originated in Pakistan.”
The pages were devoted to Pakistan military and often referenced the ongoing tensions with neighboring India. A total of 2.8 million people followed these “inauthentic” pages and groups. A sample post is depicted below. The translation reads: “Today is the 6th death anniversary of M.M. Alam, who destroyed 5 Indian jets within 1 minute. Who has the courage to hamper our flight? We fly with courage, not wings”
Facebook said many of the accounts involved were linked to the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations), which is the media arm of the Pakistan military.
India’s Opposition Party In Shady Facebook Tactics?
In the same report, Facebook identified and removed 687 pages and accounts located in India.
“We removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior in India.”
Again, the pages were set up by fake profiles and used to disperse political messaging. As India prepares to go to the polls on April 11th, the topics were often related to the election. Most were critical of India’s largest party Bharatiya Janata Party and incumbent Prime Minister Modi.
Again, Facebook found nefarious links behind the accounts. Facebook claims many were set up and operated by members of India’s opposition party, Indian National Congress (INC). The INC responded on Twitter to say no official pages were taken down:
This is to clarify no official pages run by INC have been taken down. Additionally, all pages run by our verified volunteers are also unaffected.
In the mean time, we are awaiting a response from Facebook to provide us a list of all pages/accounts that they have taken down.
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 1, 2019
India and Pakistan Nuclear Tensions
The news comes at a difficult time for the two nuclear nations. India and Pakistan are locked in a tense military standoff after Pakistani-based terrorists killed 40 Indians in February. As CCN.com reported, India hit back with airstrikes, triggering an escalating display of power on both sides of the disputed border in Kashmir.
It appears that a war of propaganda is also taking place online on social media platforms like Facebook.
Facebook Under Pressure to Stamp Out Propaganda
Facebook is under fire for allowing the spread of false information and influencing political events. The infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed how political groups could effectively buy influence over Facebook users by tapping into social media data.
Facebook has been accused of inadvertently influencing everything from the US election to Brexit, and now the Indian elections. Speaking about the problem, Facebook said:
“This is why we continue to invest in people and resources to improve the technology we use to detect this type of harmful behavior, and we will continue to take action on an ongoing basis to address it.”