Facebook Removes 702 Pages Related To Cong & BJP-Linked IT Firm

Both were found to have posted about the elections and traded charges of misconduct against the other party.

Updated04 Apr 2019, 02:37 PM IST
Elections
3 min read

Facebook on Monday, 1 April, announced that it had removed 702 pages and accounts from India linked to the Indian National Congress and Silver Touch, an IT firm with close links to the BJP.

Both entities were found to have posted political content related to the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, views of candidates and allegations against their opponents.

The Facebook post mentions the Congress party but does not name the BJP. However, according to several investigative reports, Silver Touch has been handling social media engagement for the BJP.

An NDTV investigative report said that Silver Touch director Himanshu Jain was tweeting with the moniker ‘He Man NaMo’ while another employee, Bhargav Jani, described himself as “social media manager for BJP” on LinkedIn and had claimed to amplify pro-BJP cut-and-paste tweets on a number of issues. In 2019, Jain’s Twitter handle appeared to have changed to ‘Chowkidar NaMo News’.

Facebook, however, in a statement on Monday, said that it had seen no evidence of Silver Touch being associated with the NaMo App on its platform

Facebook in a new statement late on Monday said it had “seen no evidence to date of Silver Touch being associated with the NaMo App on our platform. We won’t be speculating about off-platform connections of the actors we took down today”.

As part of its exercise of removing pages that exhibit “inauthentic coordinated behaviour”, Facebook said it removed the pages that were “misleading” and “the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves.”

This kind of coordinated behaviour is associated with the creation of a large number of inauthentic pages or accounts with the intention of misleading people about their identities and amplifying a certain type of news or content.

687 Pages & Accounts Related to INC Taken Down

According to the Facebook statement, it removed 138 pages and 549 accounts which it found “connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell.”

The page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including the upcoming elections, candidate views, and criticism of political opponents including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

  • These 687 pages had a combined following of about 2,06,000 accounts

Congress, however, has issued adenial of any of its official pages having been taken down.

  • They had spent about $39,000 USD for ads on Facebook, paid for in Indian rupees.
  • The first ad ran in August 2014 and the most recent ad ran in March 2019.
“We don’t react off the back to the news reports that are coming in. We need to verify the veracity of this. Whether there are any Facebook pages that are linked to us, which are being used in any manner. We need to check and get back to you. Maybe the news report is itself not correct.”
Manish Tewari, Congress spokesperson

Fifteen Pages, Groups of BJP-Linked Silver Touch Removed

Separately, 15 pages and groups across Facebook and Instagram which were removed were found to be associated with IT firm Silver Touch.

These pages posted about local news and political events, including topics like the Indian government, the upcoming elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the INC.

  • These 15 pages had a combined following of about 2.6 million accounts
  • They had spent about $70,000 USD for ads on Facebook, paid for in Indian Rupees.
  • The first ad ran in June 2014 and the most recent ad ran in Feb 2019.

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Published: 01 Apr 2019, 11:34 AM IST

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