June 13, 2021

Facebook Removes 40 Pakistani Accounts for Engaging in Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour

Facebook in May removed 40 Facebook accounts, 25 Pages, six Groups and 28 Instagram accounts that originated in Pakistan as part of its internal investigation into suspected Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour (CIB). These accounts targeted primarily domestic audiences in Pakistan, in addition to also focusing on English, Arabic and Pashto-speaking audiences abroad. Individuals associated with Pakistani PR firm AlphaPro were linked with this activity.

Facebook found that there were some links to the network it removed in April 2019, when the company removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in CIB on Facebook and Instagram as part of a 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. 

Facebook refers to CIB as finding “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.”

Other parts of the world also saw removal of accounts related to CIB. The company removed 83 Facebook accounts, 30 Pages, six Groups and 49 Instagram accounts, operated by local nationals in Sudan on behalf of individuals in Russia. This network targeted primarily Sudan. There was some connection to the network Facebook removed in October 2019 and the latest activity was linked with individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA).

In total, Facebook removed 123 Facebook accounts, 77 Instagram accounts, 55 Pages and 12 Groups in May.

In instances when CIB is conducted on behalf of a government entity or by a foreign actor, the broadest enforcement measures are implemented, including the removal of every on-platform property connected to the operation itself and the people and organizations behind it, according to Facebook.

Cracking Down on Online Activity

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) in April 2021 said that 19,727 social media accounts inciting hatred and promoting terrorism were taken down in Pakistan. Google, Facebook and Twitter were responsible for removing the accounts. About 9,633 pages were inciting religious hatred and 10,094 social media accounts were promoting terrorism. They were blocked on the request of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the counter-terrorism agency said.

In an update in March, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity Guy Rosen said that the tech giant has used its AI systems to remove COVID-19-related material that has been flagged as misinformation by global health experts since the pandemic began. As a result, over 12 million pieces of content about COVID-19 and vaccines were removed during that time. 

Rosen also said that the platform blocks millions of fake accounts every day, most of them at the time of creation. Over 1.3 billion fake accounts were blocked between October and December of 2020.

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