Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Why is Facebook deleting Congress linked pages and accounts

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi
Congress President Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi : With April starting, the countdown begins for Lok Sabha Elections 2019. While BJP's head Narendra Modi is using Twitter to promote 'Main Hoon Chowkidar' online campaign ahead polls, Congress is also making their online presence in various platforms. But, the later received a big punch when the social media giant Facebook removes 687 pages and accounts linked to Congress party. Source close to the development confirms that Facebook has deleted fake accounts and spams associated with IT Cell of the Congress party.

The Congress-linked accounts were removed not on the basis of fake content but for "inauthentic behaviour" and for pushing spam. Meanwhile, the political party is yet to comment on this Facebook action against them.

Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher told reporters that Facebook has removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts, most of which had already been detected and suspended by its automated systems that was engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC).

"When we remove one of these networks, the reason we remove them is because of their coordinated inauthentic behaviour, that they are using network of fake accounts to conceal their identity... to mislead who's behind them. That's the basic reason for removal," he told reporters. 

 "We are constantly working to detect and stop coordinated inauthentic behaviour because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people. We're taking down these pages and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they posted," Mr Gleicher added.

For some time, Facebook is putting efforts to ensure that the platform is not misused to spread misinformation, especially ahead of polls in India. It has also started running political ads on its platform in a bid to enhance transparency.

Also, government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.

In the press meet Mr Gleicher said: "We have reached out to the INC to educate them about what we have seen and answer questions they have. We have also reached out to policy makers and government to ensure that they understand the types of behaviour we are seeing and what we are learning".

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

"While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell," Mr Gleicher said.