Facebook targets Congress but BJP takes a bigger hit in crackdown

Updated 7:43 PM, 1 April, 2019
Facebook, journalism, COVID-19, coronavirus,

Facebook on April 1 announced that it has removed pages related to political parties for coordinated inauthentic behaviour in India. The move comes with barely two weeks left for the Lok Sabha elections.

The social media giant, in a statement, said that it took down about 687 Facebook pages and accounts linked to individuals associated with the IT cell of the Indian National Congress (INC), and 15 pages related to Indian IT firm Silver Touch, which operates for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While Facebook singled out the Congress by directly mentioning the party, there was no mention of accounts relating to other leading political parties, including the BJP. An email sent to Facebook seeking clarification on the same did not elicit any response.

The Facebook statement, however, indicates that Silver Touch has 12 times more followers than the INC-managed accounts and spent 80% more money on advertising on the platform. While pages managed by Silver Touch had 2.6 million accounts following them, the Congress-operated accounts had 0.2 million followers.

Advertisers in India spent over ₹6.5 crore for political ads on Facebook between February 24 and March 16. Out of this amount, about ₹3.8 crore came from the BJP and its backers, according to Facebook’s Ad Archive report
The statement by Facebook said that the page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including topics on candidates’ views and criticism of political opponents. “While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it linked to individuals associated with an INC IT cell and Indian IT firm Silver Touch,” the Facebook press note said.

The statement added that individuals behind these pages used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves which led Facebook to take action.

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