Facebook has taken down 687 pages and accounts linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Congress.

It has also removed 103 pages, groups and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network which originated in Pakistan.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said these pages and accounts were taken down after they were found violating Facebook’s policies on coordinated inauthentic behaviour or spam.

The social media giant has also removed 15 Facebook pages linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm Silver Touch and another 321 Facebook pages and accounts in India that have broken rules against spam.

“We didn’t find any link between the campaigns we’ve removed today (Monday), but they used similar tactics of creating a network of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Gleicher said.

Investigation under way

When asked if similar behaviour has been observed on Facebook pages associated with other political parties in the country, Gleicher said that it’s an ongoing process and investigations are under way by a global team of experts.

On being asked if the action violated users’ freedom of speech, he said the action was not based on the content of the page. Some of the pages taken down may not have been harmful or anti-social, which would cause social disharmony, but might have been propagated by individuals with fake accounts on behalf of a political party.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop such coordinated inauthentic behaviour because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.” Gleicher said.

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” he explained.

Facebook’s action, ahead of the upcoming elections in India, is part of its global strategy to cut down the misuse of the platform.

Congress responds

In a statement on Twitter, 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. In the meantime, we are awaiting a response from Facebook to provide us a list of all pages/accounts that they have taken down.”

On the other hand, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Facebook removing pages linked to the Congress is “a very historical development”.

“When inquiry was done, it was found that those individuals were linked to Congress IT cell. The Congress is desperate and therefore resorting to these types of dubious means to claim support but people are sure of what they have seen of Narendra Modi government,” he said.