Late last night [01-04, 11.52 pm] DD NEWS [www.ddinews.gov.in] carried the following news item under the heading, “Facebook removes 687 pages, accounts linked to Congress”.
In a major crackdown on the use of Facebook accounts to criticize opponents, Facebook Inc on Monday removed 687pages and accounts linked to the Congress, saying they were indulging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the social media platform.
BJP slammed the Congress Party saying the accounts were used to spread falsehood against Narendra Modi government, though, the Congress has obviously denied the charge.
On the face of it there appears to be nothing wrong with the story carried by the national broadcaster. Most newspapers seem to have ignored the story. Rajya Sabha TV headline said, ”Facebook removes pages linked to Congress for inauthentic behavior.” However the story carried was a wee bit more balanced than the Doordarshan News as it after mentioning about the 687 pages and accounts linked to the Congress added ”and a smaller number of what appeared to be pro-BJP accounts.”
But the Indian Express this morning [2nd April ] had the full story. The paper’s front page headline was very different from DD India; “Citing behavior, Facebook removes 700 accounts, pages linked to BJP & Congress”. In a box, the paper gave comparative statistics- Congress 687 pages and accounts with 2,06,000 followers; Silver Touch [BJP] 15 pages and accounts with 26,45,000 followers! The story adds, “Those taken down include those associated with the Congress IT Cell, and Silver Touch Technologies, a company that has worked for the government and the BJP.”
Referring to the Congress, Facebook’s head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said, ”While people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell.”
Referring to the 15 pages related to the BJP, Facebook said, “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that this activity was linked to individuals associated with an IT firm, Silver Touch.”
BJP has been the pioneer in using the social media and has effectively used them in building up platforms for promoting the party, its leaders and the government. Opposition or Congress bashing was done systematically by its cyber army. Congress on the other hand is relatively new in the field and of late seems to have caught up with the BJP.
Yesterday when the Facebook story broke out the ruling party being the pioneer in the field was the first to attack the “inauthentic behavior” of the Grand Old Party. The Finance Minister and the Law Minister lead the charge in showing how the GOP has been indicted by Facebook. The latter accused the Congress of resorting to dubious means to claim support. The stories on DD India and Rajya Sabha Television had already pronounced who the wrongdoer in Facebook was. The Congress on the other hand denied the charges and tweeted, “This is to clarify no official pages run by INC have been taken down’’.
What has been decided by the Facebook in taking down what they consider inauthentic behavior may not become a major election issue as both the BJP and the Congress do not offer much credible explanations. In terms of pages and accounts taken down by the Facebook, the Congress is way ahead of the BJP, 687 to 15. On the other hand the BJP with 26,45,000 followers far outnumbers Congress’s 2,06,000. Let those who access the cyber media find out what losing followers would mean. In the meantime, the slugfest between the ‘erring’ nay sparring parties is sure to dominate news channel trivia!