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Facebook, Instagram remove Pak-operated fake accounts attacking India

Facebook yesterday said it removed 453 accounts, 103 Pages, 78 Groups and 107 Instagram accounts that were operating from Pakistan and focused on spreading misinformation in India.

The people behind this network relied on fake accounts – 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," the social network said in a statement.

The people behind these malicious accounts also used a browser extension to automate reporting.

"They posted primarily in English and Hindi about regional news and current events including memes and content about social and political issues in Pakistan and India, such as India's policies toward China, the Indian military, criticism of the Indian government and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic," Facebook said.

The company found this network as part of its internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region.

About 70,000 accounts followed one or more of these pages, about 1.1 million accounts joined one or more of these Groups and less than 11,000 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

"We are making progress in rooting out this abuse, but as we've said before, it's an ongoing effort," Facebook said in its "August 2020 Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour Report".

In April last year, Facebook removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts on both its platform and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior against India as part of a military-backed network that originated in Pakistan.

The individuals used fake accounts to operate military fan Pages, general Pakistani interest Pages, Kashmir community Pages and hobby and news Pages.

"They also frequently posted about local and political news including topics like the Indian government, political leaders and military," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook.

"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," he added.

In total, there were 24 Pages, 57 Facebook accounts, seven Groups and 15 Instagram accounts.

In August this year, Facebook removed three networks of accounts, Pages and Groups in total.

Two of them – from Russia and the US – targeted people outside of their country. Another from Pakistan focused on both domestic audiences in Pakistan and also in India.

"Since 2017, we have removed over 100 networks worldwide for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour, including ahead of major democratic elections," Facebook said..