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Pakistani network running pro-ISI, anti-India propaganda busted by Facebook and Stanford researchers, hundreds of accounts suspended

These pages and groups posted Pakistani nationalist content, promoting the ISI and ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party headed by Imran Khan. The network encouraged users to mass-report accounts that were critical of Islam and the Pakistani government, said the report

An investigation by Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) has exposed a network of Pakistan-based Facebook and Instagram accounts that indulged in mass reporting of social media accounts and posts that were critical of Pakistani ruling establishment.

The investigation by the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) has revealed that as many as 103 Facebook Pages, 78 Facebook Groups, 453 Facebook accounts and 107 Instagram accounts have been taken down by Facebook on August 31, 2020, for engaging in ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ in an effort to silence the critics of Pakistani ruling and military establishment.

“On August 31, 2020, Facebook suspended 103 Pages, 78 Groups, 453 Facebook accounts, and 107 Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour. As it notes in its takedown report, Facebook attributed this network to individuals in Pakistan,” the SIO report read.

The SIO reports said that the Facebook had shared a portion of this network with the SIO recently after which they carried out an investigation and brought out the report.

Pakistan posted anti-India propaganda, indulged in mass reporting of accounts

The report highlights how social media accounts that originated in Pakistan posted pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam propaganda on social media platforms. In addition to that, these Pakistani accounts targeted Indian government by peddling false narratives against India.

The report also stated that these social media groups also resorted to mass reporting of social media accounts. These networks operated, with Group and Page administrators who mobilized social media users to report accounts that were critical of Islam or the Pakistani military/government.

Some of these pages and groups also targeted Ahmadi religious community, one of the persecuted Muslim groups in Pakistan.

“In our investigation, we find that the network engaged in mass reporting: the coordinated reporting of accounts ostensibly for violating a platform’s terms of service. The network encouraged users to mass-report accounts that were critical of Islam and the Pakistani government, and in some cases accounts that were part of the Ahmadi religious community,” read the SIO report.

The SIO report also stated that many pages on the network focused on posting Pakistani nationalist content, praising Pakistan’s ISI, the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Their posts also focused on criticising India’s ruling BJP and PM Narendra Modi.

Report by SIO

Pakistan social media pages targeted accounts using insulting fake names

According to Shelby Grossman, a research scholar at SIO, these groups also boasted regarding their successes frequently and targeted accounts by intentionally using insulting fake names which were clearly in violation of Facebook’s policies.

“The network used a Chrome extension called Auto Reporter to report accounts in bulk, and likely to generate the direct reporting links,” said Shelby.

These pages and groups posted Pakistani nationalist content, promoting ISI, the Pakistan’s intelligence agency and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The SIO report also noted “the repeated invoking of duty towards religion and nation for mass reporting”.

Facebook had suspended a pro-Pakistani military network in 2019 too

Reportedly, this is not the first time that Facebook has suspended social media accounts that are linked to ISPR of Pakistan Military. In April 2019, Facebook had suspended a network of accounts linked to the Pakistani military establishment.

According to Digital Forensic Research Lab, that network “represented a significant influence operation, apparently aimed at boosting support for the army inside Pakistan and boosting support for Pakistan abroad.”

It was revealed that the Pakistani politicians work directly with prominent social media trolls to get pro-Pakistan hashtags trending on Twitter.

India calls out Pakistan over false propaganda on social media

Meanwhile, India has responded to the dirty tricks played by the Pakistani establishment to indulge in a false social media propaganda. On Wednesday, India accused Pakistan of propagating fake news through social media platforms.

Calling it malicious propaganda, the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations shared the report by the Stanford Internet Observatory(SIO) which said that Pakistan based Facebook and Instagram accounts leveraged mass reporting to silence critics.

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