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Jodhpur Court acquits Salman Khan in fake affidavit case

A Jodhpur court on Monday acquitted actor Salman Khan in a case related to submitting a false affidavit in court.

The Rajasthan government had in 2006 submitted a plea accusing Khan of submitting a fake affidavit. CJM Rural Court Ankit Raman dismissed state government’s plea.

In 1998, Khan was booked in three different cases in black buck poaching case related to the shooting of the film, ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’. In one of the cases, he was booked under the Arms Act. During the hearing of this case, he was asked to submit his arms licence.

The state government made the accusation after the actor submitted an affidavit in court claiming that he had lost his weapon’s licence, when it had actually gone for renewal.

The prosecution asked the court to take action against Khan under Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2006.

However, defence counsel Hastimal Saraswati argued that Khan had no intention of misleading the court and his licence was actually missing at the time he was asked to submit it. any proceeding against him would be unjustified.

Speaking exclusively to IANS, Saraswat said: “Soon after the Salman Khan was booked under the Arms Act, we asked him to send his weapon’s licence. He searched for it at his home but could not find it as it had been submitted at Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office for renewal.”

“Khan however, forgot this and registered an FIR at the Bandra police station. We submitted the missing licence report in court along with the other documents. However, the DCP later sent the renewed licence, following which the prosecution accused Khan of submitting a fake certificate in court,” Saraswat said.

“We argued that he had no such malafide intention. A person sometimes forgets where he has kept his documents. In such a case, he should not be persecuted but his intentions should be studied. All statements made by Salman were in harmony and there was no contradiction and therefore he was set free,” he added.


Social Media

Facebook & Twitter remove Iran-linked fake accounts

Facebook has removed fake accounts that originated in Iran and several of those presented themselves as journalists associated with top media houses.

In a statement, Twitter said it has also removed at least 2,800 inauthentic accounts from Iran since May.

“We removed 51 Facebook accounts, 36 Pages, seven Groups and three Instagram accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in Iran,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy, said in a statement late Tuesday.

The individuals behind this activity purported to be located in the US and Europe, used fake accounts to run Pages and Groups, and impersonated legitimate news organisations in the Middle East.

“The individuals also represented themselves as journalists or other personas and tried to contact policymakers, reporters, academics, Iranian dissidents and other public figures,” said Facebook.

A number of these account owners also attempted to contact authentic Instagram accounts, some of which later posted content associated with this activity.

The posts from these Pages and accounts discussed topics like public figures and politics in the US and the UK, US secessionist movements, Islam, Arab minorities in Iran and the influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

About 21,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 1,900 accounts joined one or more of these Groups and around 2,600 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

Facebook removed these fake accounts on a tip shared by FireEye, a US cyber security firm.

According to Yoel Roth, Head of Site Integrity at Twitter, they have removed more than 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran.

“These are the accounts that FireEye, a private security firm, reported on today. We were not provided with this report or its findings,” Roth tweeted.


Vanzara, Amin discharged in Ishrat’s ‘fake’ encounter case

A special CBI court here on Thursday absolved controversial Gujarat police officers D.G. Vanzara and N.K. Amin of all charges in the sensational Ishrat Jahan encounter, after the Gujarat Government refused permission to prosecute them in the case.

Allowing a discharge petition of the officers, who are now retired, the court stated that it was not in a position to frame charges against them after the government’s refusal to sanction their prosecution.

The officers had filed an application in the court on March 26 submitting that all proceedings against them should be dropped since the Gujarat Government had declined their prosecution stating that they were doing their duty. According to Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a sanction of the government was mandatory to prosecute a public official.

Besides this, the key argument of the police officers was that there was no abduction of the people killed and that it was a genuine encounter and part of their official duty.

Earlier in August 2018, the court had rejected the discharge petitions of Vanzara and Amin after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenged it arguing that it had sufficient evidence to establish that Vanzara was the mastermind of the entire operation and Amin was present at the encounter site.

Thursday’s court order stated: “Discharge applications of D.G. Vanzara and N.K. Amin are hereby allowed and they’re discharged from offences punishable under IPC section 120B read with sections 341, 342, 343, 365, 368, 302 and 201, and sections 25(1)(e) and 27 of Indian Arms Act. Bail bond stands canceled and security bonds, if any deposited by the applicants accused are ordered to be refunded to them.”

Meanwhile, CBI’s lawyer R.C. Kodekar said a copy of the order of would be sent to the CBI headquarters to decide whether to move a higher court against the court ruling.

Senior counsel Vrinda Grower for Ishrat Jahan’s mother Shamima Kauser had opposed the discharge petition arguing that it was “untenable in law and unsustainable on facts” while the State Government had no authority to refuse the prosecution of the officials.

Mumbai girl Ishrat Jahan and Pranesh Pillai alias Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, who were said to be Pakistani nationals, were killed near Kotarpur waterworks on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004, by the Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch, then led by Vanzara. DCB had then claimed that the four were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba out to kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.





Fake WhatsApp post spells misery for Maharashtra vendor

A social media message proclaiming details of India’s oldest liquor shop in Nashik that went viral has caused misery to the owners in its wake as it was fake.

The message on Tuesday claimed that S.B. Mistry & Sons, a liquor shop was the country’s oldest licensed establishment in existence since 1847, a century before India’s Independence in the wine capital of the country, Nashik.

The shop is still operational and proudly boasts of possessing a Licence No. 1. But the post on WhatsApp was fake. The license was allotted to it by the district authorities.

Its present fourth-generation owner, Darayus Mistry has flatly denied the message and its content, attributing it to the handiwork of some mischievous elements.

“We are old, but not as claimed by the message and even the photos circulating are not real… Moreover, the Licence No. 1 is issued for only Nashik district,” an irate Mistry told IANS.

He pointed out that there could be “many other older shops” in the country, but his was not among them and declined to elaborate more on his liqour outlet.

“My life has become miserable since this message was posted by somebody yesterday… I am harassed by calls from India and abroad, people wanting to know more or media seeking interviews. Please end this matter right now,” Mistry virtually pleaded.

A picture similar to the one circulated on social media on Tuesday, was clicked around 11 years ago and also posted on a community site, but its authenticity could not be verified from the website editors.



Fake review factories fooling online Amazon shoppers

Amazon’s online shoppers are being fooled by fake review factories running on multiple Facebook groups.

The scam is supported by several large and small companies as well as by entrepreneurs who depend on Facebook to spread positive reviews about their products listed on Amazon to its 2.6 billion users globally.

Fake reviewers, backed by Amazon sellers, post details about the products on Facebook Groups to influence consumers, the Guardian reported on Saturday.

Since the reviewers have to really pay for the items, Amazon is fooled into believing that the buyer is genuine but after leaving a glowing review, the product manufacturing company refunds the purchase price and sometimes also pays an extra fee.

“Which?”, a brand name used by UK-based Consumers’ Association, said that “nearly all” of the Facebook groups it uncovered last autumn were still active, the report said.

Earlier this week “Which?” claimed that Amazon’s system was being undermined by a flood of fake five-star reviews for unfamiliar brands.

“Researchers analysed listings of hundreds of popular tech products and found top-rated items were dominated by brands with names such as Itshiny, Vogek and Aitalk, many with thousands of unverified reviews,” the report added.

In October 2018, “Which?” said two large Facebook groups, plus some smaller groups, may between them have up to 87,000 members potentially engaged in writing fake reviews.

“We don’t allow people to facilitate or encourage the trade of fake user reviews. The groups brought to our attention have now been removed for violating our policies,” the report quoted Facebook as telling “Which?”

“We urge people to continue to use our reporting tools to flag content they think breaks our rules.”

On the other hand, Amazon claimed it invests “significant resources” to protect the integrity of reviews on its site, the report said.

“We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners, and we suspend, ban and take legal action on those who violate our policies,” the report quoted Amazon as saying.



Bahujan Samaj Party alleges fake voting by burqa clad women

Kunwar Danish Ali, the BSP candidate from Amroha Lok Sabha seat, has alleged fake voting in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by people wearing burqa.

He said that the BJP feared losing the seat and was resorting to unfair means.

BJP candidate Kanwar Singh Tanwar, meanwhile, alleged that the SP-BSP alliance was sending people wearing burqa to vote in its favour.

BJP MLA Mahendra Singh Khadagvanshi demanded that Muslim women wearing burqa should be made to identify themselves before they vote.

Chief Electoral Officer L. Venkateshwarlu said in Lucknow that there was no truth to the allegations and every voter’s identity was being checked before he or she was allowed to vote.

In the first phase of polling too, similar allegations were levelled by former union Minister Sanjiv Baliyan who is contesting the Muzaffarnagar seat.





Pakistani pilots training on Rafale fake news; Envoy

France has denied reports that Pakistani pilots under an exchange programme with Qatar were being trained to fly Rafale fighter jets.

“I can confirm that it is fake news,” tweeted French Ambassador to India Alexan Ziegler, putting to rest speculations that Pakistani pilots had got hands on the Rafales before they were inducted into the Indian Air Force.

A February report of AIN Online had gone viral claiming that the first batch of pilots trained for Qatar (which has also ordered French Rafale jets like India) in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers.

Qatar had placed two separate orders for 36 Rafale jets. The first of the aircraft was delivered in February.

The delivery of Rafale for India was expected to start by September.



Facebook to punish Groups for spreading fake news

In yet another bid to tame fake news, Facebook will crack down on Groups that repeatedly share misinformation by reducing that Group’s overall News Feed distribution.

The social media platform will also hold admins of the Facebook Groups more accountable for the Community Standards violations.

“When people in a group repeatedly share content that has been rated false by independent fact-checkers, we will reduce that group’s overall News Feed distribution. Starting today, globally,” Guy Rosen, Vice President of Integrity at Facebook said in a blog post on late Wednesday.

Facebook said that starting in the coming weeks, when reviewing a Group to decide whether or not to take it down, it will look at admin and moderator content violations in that Group — including member posts they have approved as a stronger signal that the group violates its standards.

“We’re also introducing a new feature called Group Quality, which offers an overview of content removed and flagged for most violations, as well as a section for false news found in the group,” added Tessa Lyons, Head of News Feed Integrity at Facebook.

The company has incorporated a “Click-Gap” signal into News Feed ranking.

“Click-Gap” looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph.

“This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content,” said Facebook.

The company is also expanding the Context Button to images on Instagram.

Launched in April 2018, the Context Button feature provides people more background information about the publishers and articles they see in News Feed so they can better decide what to read, trust and share.

“We’re testing enabling this feature for images that have been reviewed by third-party fact-checkers,” said Facebook.

Facebook said it will bring the “Verified Badge” into its Messenger service.

“This tool will help people avoid scammers that pretend to be high-profile people by providing a visible indicator of a verified account,” said the company.


Science & Technology

1 in 2 Indians receiving fake news via FB, WhatsApp

Despite tall claims made by Facebook that it is removing 10 lakh fake accounts a day in India, a survey revealed on Tuesday that one in two Indians has received fake news in the last 30 days and Facebook and WhatsApp are the platforms which are being used excessively to misinform the users.

The survey by online startup Social Media Matters and New Delhi-based Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics found that over 53 per cent of Indians received fake news related to the upcoming elections over various social media platforms.

“Nearly 62 per cent of the population believes that the upcoming elections will be influenced by the misinformation that the users are receiving,” the findings showed.

The 18-25 age group that led the conversation constituted 54 per cent of the sample population.

“Facebook and WhatsApp are the leading platforms being used to disseminate misinformation. The survey stated that 96 per cent of the sample population received fake news via WhatsApp,” the findings showed.

An estimated 900 million voters (including 9.4 per cent new voters) are battling the influence of fake news as India goes to the polls from April 11.

“Since half-a-billion voters have access to Internet, fake news can have a massive impact on the elections,” said the survey.

Nearly 41 per cent stated they made efforts to authenticate a news by searching it on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

About 54 per cent suggested that they have never been affected by fake news but 43 per cent of them have known people who have been misled by the same.

The survey titled ‘#DontBeAFool’ covered nearly 700 users including 56 per cent men, 43 per cent women and 1 per cent transgenders.

Facebook on Monday said it was working for more than 18 months now to make sure that the Indian elections were fair and free from interference, both foreign and domestic.

Facebook last week removed nearly 700 Pages, Groups and accounts in India for violating its policies on what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” and spam.



Why LinkedIn relies on users, not AI, for removing fake profiles

In February, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer B. Chandrakala found a LinkedIn fake account running in her name. After registering a case under the Information Technology (IT) Act, the police swung into action and get LinkedIn to shut that fake account.

Under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in an illegal mining case in Uttar Pradesh, Chandrakala was shocked to see the fake account being run on LinkedIn in her name using her photograph and designation and publishing objectionable obscene content.

Not just fake accounts, there have been several cases of fraudsters impersonating staffing agencies on the LinkedIn platform and people keeping duplicate and fake profiles.

The goal of such people, according to Bruce Johnston, a famed LinkedIn sales and marketing consultant, is to harvest email addresses from connections, identity theft, phishing, spear phishing and other scams and impersonation.

LinkedIn, which has over 54 million users in India which is its fastest growing market outside of the US, claims it is good at stamping out fake profiles once they are identified.

But the real game is to identify such problems firsthand — via Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled algorithms which the company has invested heavily in — in order to weed out bad actors quickly and act proactively, without waiting for users to flag such content.

Human-centric AI and Machine Learning (ML) is helping — to a great extent — Facebook, Twitter and Google stamp out bad content, terror-related posts, political interference, misinformation, abuse and several other inauthentic behaviour even before users flags them.

“LinkedIn is pretty good at stamping out fake profiles once they are identified. But as fake profiles can be replaced just as quickly as they are detected and stamped out, this is a real problem,” wrote Johnston in a blog post some time back.

LinkedIn does not have a satisfactory answer when it comes to identifying a person who is between jobs or joined at some other place but keeps his old profile on LinkedIn.

“Members come to LinkedIn to connect with their community, learn from each other and access opportunity. The best way to do that is to keep their profile updated, including sharing news and insights,” says the Microsoft-owned platform.

LinkedIn gives users option to flag inappropriate or fake profiles on its platform – profiles that contain profanity, empty profiles with fake names, or profiles that are impersonating public figures.

The company told IANS that while there may be multiple reasons why members take more time to update their profiles, it is possible for other members to report inaccurate information.

“We take each report very seriously and our team reviews each case individually. If the information is inaccurate, we take action, which can include removing the content,” said a LinkedIn spokesperson.

Specifically for fake accounts, said LinkedIn, we investigate suspected violations of our Terms of Service, including the creation of false profiles, and take immediate action when violations are uncovered.

“If members use multiple email addresses to log into LinkedIn, this can lead to duplicate accounts. LinkedIn has tools in place to check for such instances and notify members to merge the duplicate accounts,” informed the company.

It, however, appears that LinkedIn relies more on users than its AI and ML solutions to keep its platform sanitised.


Business India Science & Technology

Renamed fake accounts spreading political bias on FB

Barely a week away from when the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls, the fake news factories on Facebook and its owned WhatsApp have become active like never before as the social media giant scrambles for solutions which are few and far between.

The game on Facebook is different from other social media platforms as several Pages, Groups and accounts have been renamed to push the election agenda as the requirements from the political quarters soar.

According to social media experts, renaming the Facebook Pages or Groups to promote political campaigns and influence voters has become common and the Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven algorithms are not sufficient to handle such a huge volume in a country where Facebook has over 30 crore users and WhatsApp another 30 crore monthly.

“There are over 200 fake Facebook Groups and Pages with more than one lakh followers which are currently influencing the group members and followers with biased political content,” leading social media expert Anoop Mishra told IANS.

There are fake profile Pages created by fans of journalists like Ravish Kumar (“I Support Ravish Kumar” with over 18 lakh followers) and Punya Prasun Bajpai (“Prasoon Vajpaaye Fans” with over 10 lakh followers) being used to push a political agenda.

There are several such examples where people who joined Facebook renamed their Pages, Groups and accounts later, only to use it for spreading their political agenda in the election season.

Despite Facebook’s efforts, such misinformation is thriving and is only going to reach mammoth levels as the first phase of voting begins from April 11.

“For the social media players, India is a huge market and they want to grow… On the other hand, they have consistently failed to stop the spread of fake news and propaganda on their platforms,” Pavan Duggal, the nation’s leading cyber law expert, told IANS.

The pressure on social media platforms is enormous with the Indian government now formulating new IT guidelines where they have to remove within 24 hours any unlawful content that can affect the “sovereignty and integrity of India”.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is another fake news factory where more than 87,000 groups are targeting millions with political messaging.

“From fake statistics related to various government policies to news promoting regional violence, manipulated political news, government scams, historical myths, propaganda to patriotism and Hindu nationalism — WhatsApp has it all in the election season,” Mishra had said earlier.

The failure to stem fake news is evident from the recent statements from CEO mark Zuckerberg. In an interview with RTE News on Tuesday, he said Facebook cannot yet guarantee that it can stop foreign actors that are trying to interfere in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.

Facebook first came under the scanner of policymakers around the world after allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections surfaced.

In India, Facebook has hit on several fake Pages and accounts linked to Congress as well as the BJP but the task at hand is humongous.

On the social media platform, “some of the Pages and Groups with massive followings are directly in touch with the IT cells of the political parties”, claimed Mishra.

The purpose, he added, is to connect and influence the voters with their half-baked and misleading content.


India Science & Technology

Did Facebook downplay Bharatiya Janata Party-linked fake accounts?

Facebook that has created a mini-storm in the Indian political corridors by revealing it removed fake Pages, Groups and accounts linked to the Congress Party surreptitiously skipped mentioning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Downplaying the BJP bit is clear when you deeply scan the blog post by Nathaniel Gleicher who is Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook.
He claimed that the company removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour in India and were linked to individuals associated with an IT Cell of the Indian National Congress (INC).

“While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell,” said Gleicher.

Facebook’s investigation also found that certain individuals associated with an Indian IT firm, Silver Touch, were involved in the coordinated inauthentic behaviour and removed 15 pages, groups and accounts linked to the firm.

In this case, Facebook did not investigate further to reveal that Ahmedabad-based Silver Touch is behind the pro-BJP page “The India Eye” that is followed by 2.6 million accounts, and is there for everyone to see but the social media giant.

“They posted about local news and political events, including topics like the Indian government, the upcoming elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the INC,” noted Gleicher.

In the case of the Congress Party, Facebook went the extra mile to find the link, but it did not think it necessary to investigate further to find the BLP link in the case of Silver Touch which ran the BJP-leaning Facebook Page and is also associated with creating the NaMo app.

Another point that Facebook downplayed was the amount of ad spend.
In the case of the Congress Party, 687 Pages and accounts (138 Pages and 549 Facebook accounts) spent a little over Rs 26 lakh but 15 accounts related to Silver Touch (1 Page, 12 Facebook accounts, 1 Group and 1 Instagram account) spent Rs 48 lakh.

In the case of Congress-linked accounts, the first ad ran in August 2014 and the most recent ad ran in March 2019. In the case of Silver Touch, the first ad ran in June 2014 and the most recent ad ran in Feb 2019.

It took five years for Facebook algorithms to spot these ads, before the social media giant realized these were involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour, and took action 10 days before the first phase of voting begin on April 11.

Facebook also removed 227 Pages and 94 accounts in India for violating its policies against spam and misrepresentation.

“These Pages and accounts posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages in order to drive traffic to websites they are affiliated with in order to make money,” said Facebook.

We do not know yet who these Pages and accounts belong to.

The Congress said none of its official pages has been taken down and it was awaiting a response from Facebook to give it a list of pages/accounts that were removed.

In this whole saga, there’s definitely more to it than meets the eye.


India Science & Technology

WhatsApp unveils tipline to report fake news in India

WhatsApp on Tuesday launched a service in India where over 200 million users in the country can tip off fake news, misinformation and rumours related to elections.

Launched by PROTO, a media skilling start-up, the tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint — a research project commissioned by WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned company said in a statement.

People in India can submit misinformation or rumours to the “Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp” at +91-9643-000-888.

Dig Deeper Media and Meedan, who have previously worked on misinformation-related projects around the world, are helping PROTO to develop the verification and research frameworks for India.

“The goal of this project is to study the misinformation phenomenon at scale — natively in WhatsApp,” said PROTO’s founders Ritvvij Parrikh and Nasr ul Hadi.

When a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification centre will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in the message shared is verified or not.

The response will indicate if information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available.

“The centre can review rumours in the form of pictures, video links or text and will cover four regional languages including Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam, other than English,” said WhatsApp.

Following the project, PROTO aims to submit learnings to the International Center for Journalists to help other organisations learn from the design and operations of this project.

“The research from this initiative will help create a global benchmark for those wishing to tackle misinformation in their own markets,” said Fergus Bell, Founder and CEO, Dig Deeper Media.




Science & Technology

Facebook may hire journalists to curb fake news

In order to better tackle fake news and improve quality of content on its platform, Facebook might hire a new generation of digital-era journalists and news publishers.

In a discussion with Mathias Dopfner, CEO of Europe’s largest publisher Axel Springer, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday talked over how the platform should create more high-quality news for its over 2 billion users globally.

“I don’t know how many fake accounts you think Facebook has, but it seems to be quite a big amount. Some people are saying 700 million. I have no clue, but that has to be dealt with as a very serious problem,” said the 34-year-old CEO.

“We have to make a business in order to finance investigative journalists and correspondents, and big foreign networks, they cannot afford to do that for free,” he added.

Zuckerberg said he would focus on making sure what makes the offering and it’s structuring on Facebook attractive for the hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers, digital native publishers, legacy publishers, that they are attracted to put their best content on that platform.

“We’re not going to have journalists making news. What we want to do is make sure that this is a product that can get people high-quality news,” said the Facebook co-founder.

Facebook could have a direct relationship with publishers in order to make sure that the content is really high-quality.

“There’s a whole set of questions around how do we build a service that is contributing to high-quality journalism through increasing monitorisation,” said the American tech entrepreneur.

The Menlo Park-based online social media and social networking service company is battling the menace of fake news and misinformation on its platform, especially during election times, including in India where it has removed thousands of fake accounts, groups and pages linked with political parties.


Science & Technology

FB removes Pakistani military-backed fake accounts

Facebook on Monday said it removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts on both its platform and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour against India as part of a military-backed network that originated in Pakistan.

The individuals used fake accounts to operate military fan Pages, general Pakistani interest Pages, Kashmir community Pages and hobby and news Pages.

“They also frequently posted about local and political news including topics like the Indian government, political leaders and military,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, told the media during a telephonic conversation.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that it was linked to employees of the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) of the Pakistani military,” he added.

In total, there were 24 Pages, 57 Facebook accounts, seven Groups and 15 Instagram accounts.

Nearly, 2.8 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 4,700 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and around 1,050 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

“Around $1,100 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars and Pakistani rupees. The first ad ran in May 2015 and the most recent ad ran in December 2018,” informed Facebook.

The accounts posted on Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and the Indian Air Force, among other references.

In a faux pas, after mentioning Kashmir separately along with India and a few other countries in a blog post last month, Facebook apologized for the “mistake” and later deleted the reference to Kashmir.




Business India Science & Technology

Facebook kills 687 fake accounts linked to Congress

In a startling revelation ahead of the general elections, Facebook on Monday announced it has removed 687 spam Facebook Pages and accounts connected to individuals associated with the Congress party’s IT cell.

The individuals engaging in this coordinated inauthentic behaviour used fake accounts and joined various Groups to disseminate their content and increase engagement on their own Pages, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook.

“The Page admins and account owners typically posted about local news and political issues, including topics like the upcoming elections, candidates’ views, the INC (Indian National Congress) and criticism of political opponents including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“While the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that it was connected to individuals associated with an INC IT Cell,” Gleicher said in a telephonic conversation from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

“The majority of these accounts had already been suspended by our automated systems,” Gleicher added.

Facebook discovered the coordinated inauthentic behaviour in February this year.

The social media giant also discovered spam activities carried out by an Indian IT firm — Silver Touch which runs the pro-BJP page “The India Eye”.

It removed 15 Pages, Groups and accounts linked to the firm.

“They posted about local news and political events, including topics like the Indian government, the upcoming elections, the BJP and alleged misconduct of political opponents including the INC,” Gleicher said.



Uttar Pradesh complaint cell formed to curb fake news online

Ahead of the general elections, Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday formed a complaint cell to curb the spread of fake news and communally inciting posts on social media.

In the last few years, social media — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram — has emerged as a powerful platform to share information.

But these platforms are misused by some to spread hate messages against different communities and to promote the ideologies of political parties, Uttar Pradesh Police said in a statement.

To have the general elections in a fair and transparent manner, a complaint cell has been formed to keep a tab on the social media, it said.

The police said people can lodge a complaint on it’s WhatsApp number — 9792101616 — along with the link, video or screenshot of the post.

The complaint will be then taken up by the Crime Branch of the state police for investigation.

Uttar Pradesh will see a seven-phased voting from April 11 to May 23. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.


Science & Technology

Facebook shuts down thousands of fake Pages, accounts

Facebook has removed 2,632 Pages, Groups and accounts that were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour from Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo on its platform, as well as on Instagram.

The social media platform said it did not find any links between these sets of activities but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.

“We removed 1,907 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in spam — and a small portion of these engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour — linked to Russia,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said in a blog post late Tuesday.

The individuals behind these activities used fake accounts primarily to operate Groups and Pages posting spam content.

“A small number of these posted content related to Ukrainian news and politics, including the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine; local and regional politics; Ukrainian patriotism; refugee issues; Ukrainian military; the situation in Crimea; and corruption,” Facebook elaborated.

The company pulled 513 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of multiple networks tied to Iran.

“Finally, we removed 212 Facebook Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in Macedonia and Kosovo,” the company added.


India Science & Technology

2nd leg of WhatsApp campaign to fight fake news

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Monday launched the second-leg of its “Share Joy, Not Rumours” education campaign to encourage the responsible use of its platform ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

In addition to the earlier TV, print and radio ads, the new campaign would educate people on the controls available in WhatsApp so they are empowered to stop the spread of misinformation, the company said in a statement.

The first phase of the campaign successfully reached hundreds of millions Indians in both rural and urban areas, claimed the company, adding that the messaging platform is building on the campaign with a second round focused on supporting a safe election process.

“Proactively working with the Election Committee and local partners for a safe election is our top priority. Expanding our education campaign to help people easily identify and stop malicious messages is another step towards improving the safety of our users,” said Abhijit Bose, Head of India, WhatsApp.

WhatsApp’s digital literacy partners, including DEF and NASSCOM, would share these videos to grow awareness among the people while the print ads are aimed to act as reminders on how to spot, verify and stop sharing of misinformation that can cause harmful outcomes during the sensitive period of polling.

Over the last several months, WhatsApp has made a series of changes, including labeling forwarded messages to inform users when they have received something not from their immediate contacts and set a limit on how forwarded messages can be sent.

In addition, WhatsApp bans accounts that engage in unwanted automated activity.

WhatsApp, including other social media firms, will now have to process any request from the Election Commission of India to take down content within three hours during the 48-hour period before voting days.



Putin signs laws on curbing fake, offensive news

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law two set of bills aimed to ban and punish the spread of fake news that pose security risks and news that contain offensive information.

The laws were published on Monday on Russia’s official information portal, Xinhua news agency reported.

One of the laws bans the dissemination of information “under the guise of credible reports,” which harms people’s life or health and disturbs public order or the operations of public facilities.

Penalties for violating these laws vary from 30,000 to 400,000 rubles ($466-6,215) for individuals, from 60,000 to 900,000 rubles ($932-13,985) for officials and from 200,000 to 1.5 million rubles ($3,108-23,309) for legal entities.

Under the laws, prosecutors will have the power to determine the danger criteria caused by the fake news.

If prosecutors find unreliable and socially dangerous information online, they can request telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor to restrict access to the information sources.

The other set stipulates penalties for spreading information offending human dignity and public morality, expressing disrespect for the society, the state, the state symbols, the Russian Constitution and the bodies exercising state power.

People found guilty of those actions will face a penalty ranging between 30,000 and 300,000 rubles ($466-4,663) or administrative arrest of up to 15 days.