In blog post, company says network was engaging in coordinated reporting of content and people critical of Pakistan or supportive of India
Social media giant Facebook on Tuesday announced that it had removed 453 accounts, 103 Pages, 78 Groups and 107 Instagram accounts operated from Pakistan over “coordinated inauthentic behavior” focusing on Pakistan and India.
“We view CIB [Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior] as coordinated efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal where fake accounts are central to the operation,” read a blog post by Facebook. “There are two tiers of these activities that we work to stop: 1) coordinated inauthentic behavior in the context of domestic, non-government campaigns and 2) coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government actor,” it added.
According to the company, it removed three networks in August—two from Russia and the U.S. and one from Pakistan. Referring to the network that originated in Pakistan, it said that the people behind it relied on fake accounts—with some claiming to be based in India—to post content and manage “a handful” of Indian military fan Pages and Groups.
“The vast majority of the accounts, Pages and Groups engaged in coordinated reporting of content and people that were critical of Pakistan’s government or supportive of India, and some engaged in spam. They also used a browser extension to automate reporting,” it said, noting that posts were primarily in English and Hindi and tended to focus on regional news and current events, including memes and content about social and political issues in Pakistan and India.
Mass reporting is a tactic often utilized by such networks to use the platform’s terms of service as a tool of oppression and harassment. The network in question reportedly encouraged users to mass-report accounts that were critical of Islam and the Pakistani government, and in some cases accounts that were part of the Ahmadi religious community.
The company said it had found the network as part of an internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. It said around 70,000 accounts followed one or more of the offending Pages, about 1.1 million accounts joined one or more of these Groups, and less than 11,000 accounts followed one of more of these Instagram accounts.
Facebook said that it removes both inauthentic and authentic accounts, Pages and Groups directly involved in any domestic, non-government campaigns that include groups of accounts and Pages seeking to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing while relying on fake accounts.
“If we find any instances of CIB conducted on behalf of a government entity or by a foreign actor, we apply the broadest enforcement measures including the removal of every on-platform property connected to the operation itself and the people and organizations behind it,” it said, adding that any previously identified network was monitored for any future efforts to re-establish a presence on Facebook and new accounts or Pages linked to it were continuously removed.
This is not the first public suspension of coordinated activity in Pakistan by Facebook. The company previously suspended a network of accounts allegedly linked to the Pakistani military in April 2019.