Pro-BJP 'India Eye' among pages removed by FB: DRFLab

Following Facebook’s removal of over 700 assets over "inauthentic behaviour'' ahead of the upcoming general elections, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) published an analysis on the removed pages and their behaviour.

According to DFRLab, many of these pages related to Indian National Congress (INC) were created before the December 2017 Gujarat assembly elections. Many of these pages were dedicated to Gujarat. Some of them focused on other geographies like Mumbai and Chhattisgarh. Significantly, some of these pages garnered significant engagement with more than 2,00,000 likes.

'The India eye' linked to individual working for NaMo app developer'

DFRLab analysed in detail, two pro-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pages that had the name “The India Eye,” with over 2 million followers before Facebook removed from its own platform and Instagram. It also analysed Congress Gujarat IT Cell Pages which were removed.

“The India Eye”, according to a report in The Wire, was connected to an Indian IT company called Silver Touch Technologies Ltd, which also created Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official app. AltNews had also reported that a related website called ‘theindiaeye.com’ was hosted on Silver Touch servers but managers denied having anything to do with the website or the Facebook page. 

However, according to DFRLab, Facebook attributed the page to “individuals associated with” Silver Touch, in its statement today about the removal of this page.

The page was created in 2016. It went through several name changes in the first two weeks of its existence, suggesting that the operation was experimenting with branding, observes DFRLab. Despite reports of it spreading misinformation on Indian politics, engagements on its posts kept increasing, with a significant uptick from June 2018 onward, says the DFRLab report.

DFRLab also said that the page organised events and quiz nights aimed at celebrating the BJP’s hold on power.

Different approaches, yet dangerous trend

The report highlighted differences in the behaviour of the pages partywise. In comparison to “The India Eye”, DFRLab found the Gujarat INC Cell to be “more transparent in its affiliation — its pages explicitly called users to join the IT Cell. The content was more satirical in nature, with mostly cartoons and memes ridiculing the incumbent government. The operation was granular in its geographical targeting, focusing on assembly elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.”

It concluded by saying that “each example showed partisan users running covert assets to push their political messages,” and “both operations relied on inauthentic behaviour and the use of covert assets to push their message across.”

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Pro-BJP 'India Eye' among pages removed by FB: DRFLab

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