Facebook has removed 453 Facebook accounts, 343 Pages, 78 groups, and 107 Instagram accounts being operated from Pakistan because they were involved in fake and inauthentic activities. Facebook removes content for coordinated behavior when it finds domestic non-governmental campaigns that include groups of pages and accounts seeking to mislead Pakistani people about who they are and what they are doing, mainly if they use fake accounts. Facebook is trying to keep its platform safe by taking strong action against these accounts. In this research article, our Tashheer research will explain all these reasons to remove networks of multiple Facebook accounts and pages operated from Pakistan.

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Facebook said in its post that it discovered some networks during its internal investigation into suspicious coordinated activity in the region. Coordinated inauthentic behavior involves using fake accounts to artificially amplify content, misleading Pakistani users about the origins of information and often spreading propaganda or false descriptions. By removing these fake accounts, Facebook tries to protect honest public discussion in Pakistan especially in areas vulnerable to political and social manipulation.

Facebook stated, “Some people running this network used fake accounts, some pretending to be in India, to post content and manage a few Indian military fan pages and groups, according to Facebook. Most of these accounts, pages, and groups worked together to report content and people critical of Pakistan’s government or supportive of India, and some also spread spam.”

The company’s investigation found that the network mostly posted in English and Hindi about regional news and current events. This included memes and content on social and political issues in Pakistan and India like India’s policies towards China, the Indian military, criticism of the Indian government and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why Facebook Removes Network of Accounts, Pages Operated from Pakistan for Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior

In January 2023, Pakistan had 43.8 million Facebook audience making up 19.3% of the total population. Some network from Pakistan was found to be posting a variety of content that often has a political nature which include fake news, misleading information and propaganda to influence public opinion and political outcomes. This content was designed to look authentic that make it challenging for ordinary users to distinguish between genuine and manipulated content. In Pakistan, Facebook suspended 3,811 posts, 343 pages and groups, 10 profiles, and one album. Facebook stated that it removed some content in Pakistan for breaking local laws against blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, defamation, and accounts that criticized the country’s independence.

Facebook shared a part of this network with the Stanford Internet Observatory on August 28. In its detailed report of the takedown, Stanford saw that the network engaged in mass reporting: the coordinated reporting of accounts apparently for violating a platform’s terms of service. This network encouraged people to mass report accounts that involved in criticism of Islam and Pakistani government in large numbers. Sometimes, they targeted accounts belonging to Ahmadi religious community too.

Accounts shared links that brought users directly to Facebook’s site to report a specific account or account photo. Some accounts such as those that had intentionally insulted fake names, clearly violated Facebook’s identity policies. The network also used the Auto Reporter option, a Chrome extension, to automate reporting. The creator of the extension said explicitly on Facebook that he created the product for “Accounts like anti-Islamic, anti-Pakistani or even groups and pages which is a great threat on social media,” according to the report. The network and related users provided tutorials on creating fake accounts for reporting and quickly opening many tabs to expedite reporting.

“This is the first sample of coordinated mass reporting appearing in a network that Facebook has suspended,” Shelby Grossman, a researcher at the Stanford Observatory Laboratory, told Dawn. She also stated that the leaders of these troll groups would pick who to report and share that with other big groups and pages. They also made tools to report lots of content at once and even made YouTube tutorials on creating Facebook accounts and pages. 

Reactions are likely mixed. Some nice people who are against spreading false information praised this move. But others in Pakistan have complained, saying it’s unfair or biased. The Stanford report stated that troll armies with names like Voice of Islam would push posts to pages in the network, enabling users to report up to 80+ profiles at a time with guidance on how to do so quickly and with direct links to reporting those sites. Its report stated that their motivation was the “complete elimination of all blasphemous prophets, saints, companions and other enemies of Islam.” Stanford saw private groups, some small, some large, where troll leaders coordinated who to report. The network also had messages supporting the Pakistani military, as well as some groups and pages about the Indian military with unclear reasons.

According to this report, multiple pages of 54 suspended Pages had terms that showed Pakistani patriotism (e.g., Pakistan Support Pak Army). However, a few page names meant a political leaning toward India. Several Page names explicitly referenced account reporting. While some Pages had thousands of followers, the majority had fewer than 1,000. The report added that the same themes appeared in the groups, with its titles referencing Pakistani and Indian patriotism and account reporting. In April 2019, they suspended accounts that were supposed to be connected to the Pakistani military.

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This isn’t the first time Facebook suspended coordinated activity in Pakistan. Globally, Facebook also removed 2.2 billion fake accounts in the first three months of 2019. In Pakistan, Facebook has removed 453 Facebook accounts, 343 Pages, and 78 groups due to their Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior. In this research article, our Tashheer research compiled all these reasons to remove networks of multiple Facebook accounts and pages operated from Pakistan. By taking decisive action against them, Facebook tries to protect the reputation of its platform. 

About the Author: Alishba

Alishba Zaheer is the lead content writer at Tashheer Digital and has a genuine passion for storytelling. With her team of skillful content writers, her expertise lies in the ability to seamlessly adapt writing style to various niches, checking new trends in Tech, especially in Pakistan. She stays ahead of the curve and maintains her dedication to writing excellence. Among other things, she has been instrumental in researching local brands, Pakistani products, and services, providing benchmark articles for Pakistani audiences.