KARACHI: Facebook has deactivated scores of Pakistani false accounts and pages suspected of engaging in suspicious activity, including deceiving domestic audiences by impersonating international news organisations via bogus social media handles.
“For breaking our rules against coordinated inauthentic behaviour, we deactivated 40 Facebook accounts, 25 Pages, six Groups, and 28 Instagram profiles,” the social media giant stated in its annual report released on Tuesday.
According to the statement, this network originated in Pakistan and primarily targeted native audiences, as well as English, Arabic, and Pashto-speaking consumers worldwide.
According to the Facebook analysis, those responsible for this behaviour used bogus identities — some of which were already recognised and removed by automated algorithms — to post content, manage pages, and direct users to their off-platform website and other social media channels.
Certain pages pretended to be foreign news organisations and frequently shared what appeared to be original video content.
According to the report, “this network appeared to be active across multiple internet services and shared information about regional news and current events, including the ongoing global pandemic; criticism of India and its treatment of Muslims, particularly in the Kashmir region; and supportive commentary about Pakistan.”
Additionally, Facebook stated in its findings that several of these pages have already been banned for breaking the company’s community rules, including hate speech.
“We discovered this activity as a result of our internal investigation into potential coordinated inauthentic behaviour associated with certain of the network’s connections that were severed in April 2019.”
Facebook stated that its judgement was aided by data provided by researchers at Graphika, a company that analyses Internet data. It stated that while those responsible for the suspicious activities attempted to disguise their names and coordination, their inquiry discovered connections to persons linked with AlphaPro, a Pakistan-based public relations agency.
AlphaPro’s website, according to Graphika, states that the company has been delivering “a comprehensive spectrum of communication solutions” since 2016. Before this, the company appears to have operated as a wedding event planner.
The Facebook profile for a firm called “Wedding Mubarak” indicates that it is located in the same building as AlphaPro and previously traded as “Weddings by AlphaPro.”
Graphika discovered many linkages between AlphaPro and the accounts in the takedown collection, validating Facebook’s company’s attribution to “individuals linked.” For example, Facebook identified one profile as belonging to the firm’s managing director. At the same time, another seven were associated with an individual credited as the assistant director on several of the company’s public-facing film projects.
Additionally, the study stated that approximately $40,000 was spent on Facebook and Instagram advertisements, largely in US currency.