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Facebook takes down 15 pages, accounts and groups with links to BJP

Facebook said it has removed 15 pages, groups and accounts linked to individuals associated with Silver Touch, an Ahmedabad-based IT firm that created the Narendra Modi app, for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram in India”. We reported earlier that Facebook had removed 687 pages and accounts associated with the Congress party for similar reasons – one of four separate takedowns by the company yesterday.

Facebook wrote in its blog post that the 15 pages, groups and accounts linked to Silver Touch posted about local news and political events, the Indian government, the upcoming elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the Congress. It did not mention Silver Touch’s close ties to the BJP. These included the page The India Eye, which fact-checking site AltNews has described as a ‘fake news peddling Facebook page’. Facebook provided the following samples of content posted on the page.

Facebook wrote: “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch.”

Though Congress-linked appeared to have borne the brunt of Facebook’s actions, with a whopping 687 pages and accounts removed, the 15 BJP-linked pages, accounts and groups had more than 10 times the follower count and almost double the advertising spend. Here’s how they stacked up, according to Facebook’s post:

Presence on Facebook and Instagram

  • BJP-linked: 1 Page, 12 Facebook accounts, 1 Group and 1 Instagram account.
  • Congress-linked: 138 Pages and 549 Facebook accounts.

Followers

  • BJP-linked: About 26 lakh accounts followed this page, about 15,000 accounts joined this group, and around 30,000 accounts followed this Instagram account.
  • Congress-linked: About 2 lakh accounts followed one or more of these pages.

Advertising

  • BJP-linked: Around $70,000 (approx Rs 48.5 lakh) in spending 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.
  • Congress-linked: Around $39,000 (approx Rs 27 lakh) in spending 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.

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