Facebook Took Down 4 Different Groups of Pages and Accounts in India and Pakistan

The social network’s fight vs. coordinated inauthentic behavior continues

Content from one of the pages Facebook removed in Pakistan Facebook

Removals for coordinated inauthentic behavior are coming fast and furious from Facebook and Instagram, with the latest round made up of four separate actions in India and Pakistan, none of which are connected with each other.

Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher provided details on all of the removals in a Newsroom post.

In Pakistan, Facebook removed 24 pages, 57 accounts, seven groups and 15 Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that originated in that country.

Gleicher said Facebook found that the people involved were linked to employees of the Pakistani military’s ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations), and they used fake accounts to operate military fan pages, general Pakistani interest pages, Kashmir community pages and pages on hobbies and news, frequently posting about local and political news on topics such as the Indian government, political leaders and the military.

Some 2.8 million accounts followed one or more of those pages, about 4,700 joined at least one of the groups and around 1,050 followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.

Gleicher said roughly $1,100 was spent on Facebook ads from May 2015 through December 2018, paid for in U.S. dollars and Pakistani rupees, and he shared examples of content from the pages that were removed:

Image text: 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

In India, Facebook removed 138 pages and 549 accounts linked to individuals associated within an information technology cell of the Indian National Congress, with Gleicher saying the majority had already been detected and suspended by the social network’s automated systems.

Fake accounts were used to join groups and boost engagement on pages, and content was typically focused on local news and political issues such as the country’s upcoming elections, candidate views, the INC itself and criticism of political opponents like the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Roughly 206,000 accounts followed at least one of those pages, and some $39,000 was spent on ads between August 2014 and last month, paid for in Indian rupees. Facebook shared examples of content from those pages:

Caption: Rahul Gandhi’s callout for “Justice” against Modi’s “Injustice.” Image Text: If a person’s income is 5,000 rupees, then Congress government will credited Rupees 7,000 in his account.
Caption: They want us to get angry / Fight in the name of temple mosques / But we are not fighting! / That’s just their defeat…!! Image Text: They want us to get angry / Fight in the name of temple mosques / But we are not fighting! / That’s just their defeat…!!
Caption: Local Tribal’s lands were invaded and donated amongst the 10-15 of his friends. Corruption won’t be tolerated anymore. Uproot and throw Raman Government. Video Text: The elaborate poetry of the caption mentioned above alleging the the CM of Chattisgarh for the crime
Caption: Make the right decision / Select the poor Congress party Image Text: MNREGA Holding 14 million families out of poverty / Modi and BJP had opposed the MNREGA / Now Jetli, Modi and BJP are opposing the Act of providing Rs.72,000 annually to the poor / Make the right decision Select the poor Congress party

On a smaller scale in India, one page, 12 accounts, one group and one Instagram account linked to individuals associated with IT firm Silver Touch were removed, and Gleicher said a combination of authentic and fake accounts was used to post on various pages about local news and political events including the country’s government, the elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct by political opponents including the INC.

Around 2.6 million accounts followed the page, some 15,000 accounts joined the group and about 30,000 followed the Instagram account. Facebook said there was approximately $70,000 in ad spend, paid for in Indian rupees, between June 2014 and February 2019. Content examples follow:

Caption: If Modi is there it’s possible, UPA government did not even give the permission Video Content: Interview of Former DRDO Chief VK Saraswat with TIMES NOW news channel of explaining how Modi government gave the approvals for Mission Shakti and how UPA government did not give the permission for this project. The whole interview is in English.
Caption: India has become super power in space also. Image Text: India has blown up a live satellite in space. Speech Bubble: “Hail Mother India!”

And in the last batch, 227 pages and 94 accounts were removed in India for violating Facebook’s policies against spam and misrepresentation.

Violations included: using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names; impersonating other people; posting links to malware; and posting “massive amounts” of content to groups and pages in order to drive traffic to websites. Gleicher said this activity was not part of one coordinated operation.

He added, “We routinely remove accounts and pages that engage in this type of harmful, often financially motivated, behavior, like ads for fraudulent products or fake weight loss ‘remedies.’ The people behind this behavior create pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms. The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites. And they often use their fake accounts to generate fake likes and shares. This artificially inflates engagement for their inauthentic pages and the posts they share, misleading people about their popularity and improving their ranking in News Feed.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.