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Facebook’s crackdown against Pakistani activists: What is the way forward?

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News Analysis |

On April 1st, Facebook had made the announcement that the 24 pages, 57 accounts and 7 groups removed on Facebook had more than 2.8 million followers. These pages and groups, alleged Facebook, belonged to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

“Today we removed 103 pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram as part of a network that originated in Pakistan,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity, had said in a statement released on April 1st.

The ISPR not only denied backing or employing the people behind pages, accounts, and groups which were removed in the exercise but has also approached Facebook to express reservations over claims that it was behind those accounts.

Interestingly, ahead of the Indian Elections ─ starting April 11 ─ Facebook said it has removed 687 pages and accounts linked to India’s main opposition Congress party because of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” on the social media platform.

ISPR Rejects the Allegations

According to local media reports ISPR, the military’s media wing, has approached the social media giant to deny its backing of the said accounts and pages.

The ISPR not only denied backing or employing the people behind pages, accounts, and groups which were removed in the exercise but has also approached Facebook to express reservations over claims that it was behind those accounts. According to sources, ISPR has expressed its reservations over the claims made by Facebook that ISPR was managing these accounts or had employed people to run these accounts.

Read more: Facebook’s call for global internet regulation sparks debate

ISPR also raised questions over Facebook’s act of removing accounts highlighting the Kashmir issue and supporting Pakistan’s Armed Forces’ struggle. The military’s media wing also urged the social media giant to open its office in Pakistan for “better understanding of the situation” on the ground.

Expert Opinion

After the Pulawama tragedy which claimed the lives of more than 40 Indian soldiers, Indian military establishment failed to adequately run its media campaign to win information war against Pakistan. Indian generals have publically confessed that Pakistan’s ISPR has remarkably done its job and defeated Indian narrative. Analysts in Pakistan argue that the current crackdown by Facebook against Pakistan’s social media activists is primarily India driven and it demands serious and careful deliberation to be dealt with.

Dr. Pirzada suggested the government of Pakistan to get in touch with the Facebook administration to enhance cooperation and understating in order to safeguard the national interest of the country.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Pakistan’s prominent analyst and political commentator, tweeted and asked “how come Facebook Cybersecurity only found Pakistani ISPR linked social media teams & Congress party social media teams doing violations of its rules & no BJP or Hindutva linked teams? Has Facebook’s management being captured from inside? @fbnewsroom?

In his prime-time show Live with Moeed Pirzada on GNN, Dr. Moeed Pirzada argues Facebook which is an American company will soon get transformed into an Indian dominated company because of many Indians working within Facebook administration. Shahid Raza, a renowned social media expert, also argued that Indians are now dominatingly influencing and controlling Facebook and using it for their political interests. He also lamented that Pakistanis are still unable to comprehend the significance of these social media sites which were primarily created to use as new battlefields for cyberwarfare.

Read more: Your blocked contacts on Facebook knew what you were up to…

Dr. Pirzada suggested the government of Pakistan to get in touch with the Facebook administration to enhance cooperation and understating in order to safeguard the national interest of the country. Shahid Raza also suggested the same and urged the present government not to waste time and immediately make policy and invite Facebook to build an office in Pakistan.

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