Facebook intends to remove fake accounts in India – unless it realizes that a BJP politician is involved | social media

Facebook allowed the fake account network to artificially popularize the popularity of a member of parliament from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for months after it was alerted to the problem.

The company was preparing to remove the fake accounts, but when it found evidence that the politician may have been directly involved in the network, the Guardian Show saw internal documents.

The company’s decision not to take timely action against the network, which has already vowed to violate its policies, is the latest example of Facebook’s powerful way of comparing quality with its regular users. To reduce

Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist who exposed the inappropriate network, said: “It’s not fair to have a system of justice for the rich and important and everyone, but that’s basically the way Facebook is. “Zhang has come forward to expose the company’s failure and how its platform is being used to manipulate political discourse around the world.

Facebook’s failure to act against the MP will also raise questions about Facebook’s relationship with the Hindu Nationalist Party. Facebook has been repeatedly treated by BJP leaders for violating the rules Improper flexibility, The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2020.

Since Narendra Modi and the BJP Used the power of Facebook According to local experts, fraudulent social media tactics have become commonplace in Indian politics.

Nikhal Pahawa, an Indian digital rights activist and founder of Media Nama, said, The benefit can be expected, “said Nakheel Pahawa, an Indian digital rights activist and founder of Media Nama. “It’s an arms race between social media platforms and those who are creating unethical behavior.”

Zhang found that all major political parties in India use deceptive techniques to gain fake likes, comments, shares or fans. In the run-up to India’s 2019 general election, it worked on a massive flurry of low-quality script fake engagements on political pages across all parties, resulting in 2.2 million reactions, 1.7 million shares from unrelated or compromised accounts. And 330,000 comments were removed.

In December 2019, Zhang discovered four sophisticated networks of suspicious accounts that were generating fake engagements – namely likes, shares, comments and reactions – on the pages of major Indian politicians. The two networks were dedicated to BJP members, including MPs. Leading opposition party, the other two supporting members of the Indian National Congress.

An investigator from Facebook’s intimidating intelligence team determined that the networks were made up of manually controlled unscrupulous accounts that were being used to create fake engagements. They did not rise to the level of “Coordinated immoral behavior“- The term Facebook applies to very serious fraudulent tactics on its platform, such as the Russian-influenced operation that interfered in the 2016 US election – but they still violated it. Platform rules.

The investigator recommended that the accounts be sent through an identification “checkpoint” – a process by which suspicious accounts are locked until the account owner can provide proof of their identity. Checkpoints are a common method of enforcement for Facebook, allowing users to access only one account under the user’s “real” name.

On December 19, Facebook staff examined more than 500 accounts linked to the three networks. On December 20, the same staff was preparing to check about 50 accounts in the fourth network when it stopped.

“We just want to confirm that we are willing to act on these actors,” he wrote in Facebook’s task management system. He said one account was tagged by Facebook’s “XCheck” system as “Government Partner” and “High Priority – Indian”. This system is used to flag prominent accounts and exempt them from certain actions that automatically enforce them.

On April 10, BJP supporters attend a rally on the outskirts of Saliguri.
On April 10, BJP supporters gather at a rally on the outskirts of Saliguri. Photo: Dependo Dutta / AFP / Getty Images

This was the MP’s own account, Zhang realized, and joining his network provides strong evidence that either the Member of Parliament or anyone accessing his Facebook account has 50 fake. Was involved in linking accounts. (The Guardian is aware of the MP’s identity but chooses not to disclose it because there is no conclusive evidence of his involvement in the network. The MP’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

Political intentions may explain why a Member of Parliament will try to gain fake likes on his Facebook posts.

“A politician’s qualifications are now determined by his social media followers, and Modi is one of the most global leaders,” said Srinivas Kodali, a researcher at Free Software Movement India. “Popularity on social media does not directly help in gaining real power, but has become a means of entering politics and joining the ranks.

Task management documents show that Zhang repeatedly sought approval to proceed with the checkpoints. “For complete and for [to] Avoid accusations of biased enforcement, can we also review the cluster that is being followed? [the MP]”He wrote on February 3. No one responded.

On August 7, he wrote, referring to the unresolved situation: “In view of the close relationship with the members of the Lok Sabha, we sought the approval of a policy for assistance, which we did not receive. And the situation was not considered a priority, and there was no response.

And on his last day on Facebook in September 2020, he updated the work one last time to raise the flag that there is still a “cluster of accounts” with the MP.

“I asked about it again and again, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an answer,” Zhang said. “It was self-evident because the fact that I caught a politician or someone associated with him red-handed was more reason to work, not less.”

Facebook provided the Guardian with a number of conflicting accounts handling the MP’s network. The company initially denied that the network had been suspended and said that the “vast majority” of accounts had been checked and permanently removed between December 2019 and early 2020.

When the Guardian documented that the checkpoints had not been complied with, Facebook said “a portion” of the cluster had become inactive in May 2020, and that it would continue to monitor the rest of the network’s accounts. Is kept It was later said that an “expert team” had reviewed the accounts and that a small minority of them had not met the threshold of removal but were still inactive.

The company did not answer those questions because the accounts were not audited in December, when investigators first recommended enforcement. It also did not answer questions about which expert team was involved in the May review of accounts, nor why the review and enforcement were not recorded in the Task Management System. It claims that the policy team is not responsible for preventing any action.

Modi met Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2015 in Menlo Park.
Modi met Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2015 in Menlo Park. Photo: Getty Images

Liz Bourgeois, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said: “We strongly disagree with Ms. Zhang’s characterization of her own priorities and her efforts to root out abuse on our platform. We aggressively pursue abuse around the world. And over the years, our teams have investigated and publicly shared our findings about the three CIB talkdowns in India. We have spammed the region in line with our policies. And fake engagements have also been constantly detected and prosecuted.

When Zhang tried and failed to persuade Facebook to take action on the MP’s network, Facebook staff repeatedly took action against one of the two networks of the Indian National Congress, which Tried to end in December. Although the checkpoints were mostly hacked by fake accounts, Facebook made immediate efforts to restructure the new accounts and, in the weeks leading up to the 2020 state elections in Delhi, the network that first targeted the Congress in Punjab. Encouraged by politicians, they started supporting you, Anti-Corruption Party in Delhi

In comments to posts by BJP politicians in Delhi, fake accounts represented Modi supporters who were still choosing to vote for the AAP in the state elections. This intervention may be the result of political actors trying to support the party in Delhi with the best chance of defeating the BJP, as the Congress has very little support in Delhi’s local politics. Facebook launched several checkpointing tours to knock out the network.

The MP’s case was not the first time that Facebook’s low standards against politicians violated its laws against indecent behavior, raising concerns among some staff. “If people start to understand that we are exceptions for presidents or page admins of political parties, then these operators can finally guess and deliberately run them. [coordinated inauthentic behavior] Aside from more government channels, “one researcher spoke to Zhang in June 2019 about the company’s reluctance to take action against the network that encourages fake accounts and the President of Pages Henders.”

The issue is particularly sensitive in India, where Facebook has been hit by opposition politicians, especially in this regard, where BJP politicians have been allowed to break its rules. Anti-Muslim hate speech.

Ankhi Das, Facebook’s head of public policy for India, dismissed the policy staff who had decided that BJP politician T Raja Singh should be called a “dangerous person” for hating his anti-Muslim leaders. Should be rated. August 2020 The Wall Street Journal Reports. Das resigned after the journal reported him Open support For Modi’s 2014 campaign. Facebook denies any bias or wrongdoing.

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