Facebook has suspended 103 pages, 78 groups, 453 Facebook accounts, and 107 Instagram accounts operated from Pakistan

India has accused Pakistan of spreading misinformation through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations took to its Twitter account on Tuesday and alleged that Pakistan was indulging in “malicious propaganda”, referring to a report by the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO).

“Malicious propaganda, misinformation, #infodemic, fake news. Call it what you may. Do read this report from the @stanfordio on motivated false propaganda from Pakistan. The truth is out for the world to see,” India’s Permanent Mission to the UN tweeted.

Facebook on August 31 suspended 103 pages, 78 groups, 453 Facebook accounts, and 107 Instagram accounts operated from Pakistan and focused on Pakistan and India.

“We found this network as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region,” Facebook said in its takedown report.

Facebook shared a portion of this network with SIO and they released a detailed report, ‘Reporting for Duty’, detailing how a network of Pakistan-based accounts leveraged mass reporting to silence critics. The SIO also tried to decode Pakistan’s possible agendas behind the groups and accounts.

The Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) is a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching, and policy engagement for the study of abuse in current information, technologies, with a focus on social media.

The research carried out by SIO found out that the suspended network coordinated mass reporting of Facebook and Instagram accounts that were perceived to be critical of Islam, Pakistan government and military, or linked to the Ahmadi religious minority. Accounts shared links that brought users directly to Facebook’s site to report a specific account or account photo.

It quoted the About Us section of one Group, as saying “complete elimination of all blasphemous prophets, saints, companions, and other enemies of Islam.”

The report translated the About Us section of Group Guardians of Pakistan, “Hello! Welcome to the “Guardians of Pakistan” group. Dear, The purpose of this group is to report anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan content. If you find any anti-Islam or anti-Pakistan page, group, or a Facebook account on Facebook, post the link in this group. If the group has post-approval for positive reporting, please wait a bit after you post. The group admin will approve your post at the appropriate time. This group is for special reporting so please do not share or post irrelevant content in the group and also avoid spam gossip. Give the group regular time and respect the privacy of others. And if you are also an admin in our other group “PAKISTAN CYBER ARMY” then leave that group. The work in this group has been stopped for some unnecessary reasons, so spend your precious time in this group “Guardians of Pakistan” in the small service of Islam and Pakistan. Thanks”

The report further pointed out that the networks used “Auto Reporter”, a Chrome extension that is created for “Accounts like anti-Islamic, anti-Islamic, anti-Pakistani or even groups and pages which is a great threat on social media,” the creator of the product had said on Facebook. The report in its conclusion said that Google must block the extension and take action against the creator.

It was noted in the report that many accounts and groups posted Pakistan nationalist content and criticized India.

Another network included several Indian Army fan Pages and Groups, like the Page “Indian army Lovers,” which posted purely positive content about the Indian Army. The report said that it was unclear how these pages fit into the objectives of the network.

This is not the first time that Facebook has removed mass Pakistani accounts for violating its policies. In April 2019, it had suspended a network of accounts linked to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing of the Pakistani military.

“Today we removed 103 Pages, Groups, and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram as part of a network that originated in Pakistan. The individuals behind this activity used fake accounts to operate military fan Pages; general Pakistani interest Pages; Kashmir community Pages; and hobby and news Pages,” Facebook had said in its report.