Facebook has removed at least 40 accounts, 25 pages, six groups and 28 Instagram accounts “targeting primarily domestic audiences in Pakistan” in May for violating its “coordinated inauthentic behaviour policy”, the company said in its recent report.
“This network originated in and targeted primarily domestic audiences in Pakistan, in addition to also focusing on English, Arabic and Pashto-speaking audiences globally,” the report read.
The company, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, revealed that the network used “fake accounts” to post and manage content, in an attempt to drive people to their other social media channels.
“Some of these pages posed as international news entities and frequently shared what appears to be original video content,” the company said.
The network, according to Facebook, posted about news and current events in the region, including Covid-19, criticism of India’s treatment of Muslims, particularly in Kashmir.
COORDINATED INAUTHENTIC BEHAVIOUR: Facebook describes “Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour” as an attempt to mislead or manipulate people for a “strategic goal” by using fake accounts.
The company acts against domestic, non-government, foreign and government campaigns aimed at manipulating public debate.
“When we find 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, we remove both inauthentic and authentic accounts, pages and groups directly involved in this activity,” the company said.
The network spent $40,000 for ads on Facebook and Instagram and the money was primarily paid in US dollars, the company disclosed.
These Facebook pages had about 800,000 followers and around 1,200 people joined one or more of these groups on the social media platform. It had about 2,400 followers on its multiple Instagram accounts
In a similar operation in 2019, the company had removed 103 pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook said that network was using fake accounts to “operate military fan pages, general Pakistani interest pages and Kashmir community pages” and they frequently posted about topics such as Indian government, political leaders and military.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that it was linked to employees of the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) of the Pakistani military,” the report had said.
In its 2019 operation, Facebook had also removed over 1,000 pages associated with an “IT Cell of the Indian National Congress” and of individuals linked with Silver Touch IT firm.
In its May 2021 report, Facebook said its investigation aided by researchers at Graphika found links of a Pakistan PR firm, AlphaPro, with individuals behind the network.