‘Not ours’: Congress denies 687 Facebook pages taken down linked to party
Social networking site Facebook said on Monday that it had removed 687 pages and accounts that were linked to people associated with the Congress party. The removal comes close on the heels of Facebook launching a crack down on fake accounts and spam.
The Congress, however, reacted to the news and said that none of its official pages had been removed.
In a tweet, the Congress said, “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.” It also said that it had asked Facebook to provide it with a list of the pages and accounts that have been taken down.
Reacting to news of the take down of pages, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, “We would need to verify the veracity of this. Whether there are any Facebook pages that are linked to us which are being exorcised in any manner. We’ll check and get back to you. You may never know those pages are either not linked to us or maybe the news report itself is not correct.”
In its statement, Facebook said that the accounts that had been removed were part of coordinated networks and had been removed for “inauthentic behaviour” and for pushing spam on the social media platform.
Facebook’s announcement marks a rare action from the social networking site against a political party. The announcement comes even as political parties, including the Congress, are heading towards a parliamentary election that begins April 11 and ends on May 23 when votes will be counted.
During its investigation, Facebook found that individuals joined various groups using fake accounts to disseminate their content and increase engagement. Among the posts were some that included local news and criticisms of opposing political parties such as the 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 (Indian National Congress) IT Cell,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said in a statement.
“When we remove one of these networks, the reason we remove them is because of their coordinated inauthentic behaviour, that they are using network of fake accounts to conceal their identity... to mislead who’s behind them. That’s the basic reason for removal,” he told reporters.
He asserted that the removal was not based on the content that was shared by these pages and groups. “We are constantly working to detect and stop coordinated inauthentic behaviour because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted,” he said.
Facebook also said that it was removing 103 pages, groups and accounts, for inauthentic behaviour, as part of a network that originated in Pakistan.