NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Facebook has removed 712 accounts and 390 pages in India and Pakistan because of “inauthentic behaviour” and spamming, it said on Monday, much of it linked to India’s main opposition Congress party days before elections and Pakistan’s military.
Facebook has faced increasing pressure from authorities around the world to ensure its platform is not abused for political gains or to spread misinformation, especially ahead of elections.
Among the most significant removals, Facebook said it took down 549 accounts and 138 pages linked to India’s Congress for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. Facebook said it also banned some accounts linked to an Indian company “associated with” a mobile app promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In Pakistan, Facebook removed 57 accounts, 24 pages, seven groups and 15 Instagram accounts, also for inauthentic behaviour, as part of a network which originated in Pakistan and was linked to employees of a unit of the Pakistani military.
“We didn’t find any links between the campaigns we’ve removed today, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said in a statement.
Gleicher added that Facebook removed accounts based on their behaviour, not the content, and the action followed an internal investigation in the region ahead of the upcoming elections in India.
India’s staggered election is scheduled to begin on April 11 and end on May 19.
Tension flared last month between nuclear-armed foes India and Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in disputed Kashmir.
The action against accounts linked to India’s Congress marks a rare move by Facebook against a prominent political party in a country where it has more than 300 million users, the highest in the world.
“Our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC (Indian National Congress) IT Cell,” Gleicher said.
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