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Facebook removed 300 accounts for ‘mass-harassing people’: Report

Updated on Aug 06, 2022 01:54 AM IST

Facebook and Instagram took down a “brigading network” of around 300 accounts in India that “worked together to mass-harass people, including activists, comedians, actors and other influencers” that were posting content “deemed offensive to Hindus”, the services’ parent company Meta said in its latest threat assessment report.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo (Reuters)
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi

Facebook and Instagram took down a “brigading network” of around 300 accounts in India that “worked together to mass-harass people, including activists, comedians, actors and other influencers” that were posting content “deemed offensive to Hindus”, the services’ parent company Meta said in its latest threat assessment report.

The report comes at a time of growing concern over hate and harassment on social media, including those by troll farms and bots.

“This network was active across the internet, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Telegram. On our apps, the individuals behind this activity relied on a combination of authentic and duplicate accounts — many of which were disabled for violating our rules against hate speech and harassment by our scaled, automated systems,” the threat assessment report released on Friday said.

Separately, the Election Commission informed Parliament that they received 130 complaints of hate speeches on social media since 2019. Whether these were actioned was not mentioned in the report.

Also read: Everyone is angry with Meta, but it won’t stop the Instagram feed from changing

According to the Meta report, the so-called brigading network would call on others to harass people who posted content that this group deemed offensive to Hindus. “The members of this netw

ork would then post high volumes of negative comments under the targets’ posts. In response, some people would hide or delete their posts leading to celebratory comments claiming a “successful raid”,” the report added.

It also took down several clusters, nearly 2,000 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram that targeted women in India with sexualizing content and harassment. “The people behind each cluster of activity used authentic and duplicate accounts to manage Pages and Groups and flock to female users’ accounts with uninvited content, including nudity, sexual solicitation and hate speech,” the report said.

It added that in at least one case, an account targeted at least 700 people. “Most common content violation types by this network: Sexual solicitation; hate speech; bullying and harassment,” the company said.

“Such mass scale de-platforming of accounts by Facebook in India raises several questions on the power of platforms and regulatory checks on the same,” former Prasar Bharati chief Shashi Shekhar tweeted. ‘

The government has recently also proposed a grievance redressal mechanism that where aggrieved citizens can appeal in case, they are dissatisfied by the decision of the social media company to deplatform them.

Also read: Facebook parent Meta posts first revenue decline in history

Facebook also said that it took action against a group of hackers in Pakistan — tentatively classified as APT36 — that targeted people in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, including military personnel, government officials, employees of human rights and other non-profit organizations and students. “Our investigation connected this activity to state-linked actors in Pakistan. While this group’s activity was relatively low in sophistication, it was persistent and targeted many services across the internet – from email providers to file-hosting services to social media,” the company said.

According to the report, APT36 (the group of hackers) used various malicious tactics to target people online with social engineering to infect their devices with malware. They used a mix of malicious and camouflaged links, and fake apps to distribute their malware targeting Android and Windows-run devices.

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