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Social Media Giant Facebook Apologizes for Axing Kashmir From India

With social media becoming a hotbed of politics, the Election Commission is keeping a close watch on how these platforms are being used by political parties and their affiliates

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Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

After mentioning Kashmir separately along with India and a few other countries in a blog post, Facebook on Wednesday apologized for the “mistake”.

Reacting to an IANS story that said that Kashmir had been mentioned separately along with India in a violation of the country’s territorial integrity, Facebook deleted the reference to Kashmir from the blog post.

“We mistakenly included ‘Kashmir’ in our blog post when listing the countries and regions impacted by the Iranian network we disrupted for coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” Facebook told IANS in a statement.

“Kashmir was the subject of some of the content shared by this network, but it should not have been included in that list. We have corrected this in the blog post and we apologize for any confusion caused,” the statement added.

Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, who had written the original blog post, also tweeted.

“It was a mistake. Kashmir was a topic of some of the posts, but shouldn’t have been in the list of impacted countries and regions. We’ve corrected — apologies for the confusion.”

In his blog post on Tuesday, Gleicher mentioned Kashmir as a separate entity from India as Facebook announced that it removed thousands of fake Pages and accounts.

Jammu and Kashmir is an Indian state and New Delhi views delinking it from India as a violation of its territorial integrity.

Kashmiri pandits
Kashmir. Pixabay

“Today, we removed 513 Pages, Groups and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of multiple networks tied to Iran,” said Gleicher.

“They operated in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kashmir, Kazakhstan or broadly across the Middle East and North Africa,” he added.

Facebook reportedly has over 300 million users in India, the highest in the world.

Some of the axed Pages and accounts posted news stories on Indian politics as well as on the tension between India and Pakistan.

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“They posted news stories on current events and frequently repurposed and amplified content from Iranian state media about topics including sanctions against Iran; tensions between India and Pakistan; conflicts in Syria and Yemen; terrorism; tensions between Israel and Palestine; Islamic religious issues; Indian politics; and the recent crisis in Venezuela,” the blog post noted.

Facebook said it removed a total of 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.

With social media becoming a hotbed of politics, the Election Commission is keeping a close watch on how these platforms are being used by political parties and their affiliates.

The Election Commission earlier this month directed the social media giant to delete two posts shared by a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA with Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s image. (IANS)

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Political ad Spend on Facebook Picks up in April

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Political parties and their affiliates ramped up spending on social media ads ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for Tuesday, show data released by Facebook Ad Library.

Indians spent around Rs 7 crore for running political ads on Facebook and Instagram in the first 20 days of April, while the amount spent on these platforms in February-March was about Rs 10 crore.

Facebook’s Ad Library, a searchable database, includes ads related to politics and issues of national importance run on Facebook or Instagram.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates continue to lead the ad spending on Facebook. The official BJP page took the top spot in the list of spenders on social media platforms. Of the Rs 1.3 crore that it spent on Facebook, Rs 44.32 lakh was spent during the week ending April 20.

The official Congress page on Facebook spent Rs 56.69 lakh during February-April 20.

However, supporters and affiliates of political parties account for most of the spending on the social media platforms.

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FILE – An Indian man surfs a Facebook page at an Internet cafe in New Delhi, India, Feb. 9, 2016. VOA

For example, the pro-BJP pages — Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat (Rs 2.23 core), My First Vote For Modi (Rs 1.08 crore) and Nation with NaMo (Rs 1.20 crore) among others — spent much more than the Congress.

Similarly, the pro-Congress page “Bande Mein Hai Dum” spent Rs 2.59 lakh for drumming up support for the grand old party on Facebook and the Indian Youth Congress spent Rs 6.52 lakh on the social media platform.

Among the regional parties, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lead the spending table on Facebook.

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On Twitter, the accounts spending over $100 during the past week belonged to BJP MLA from Mandawa Narendra Kumar, Mumbai Congress unit chief Milind Deora, Congress leader and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, BJD President Naveen Patnaik and the TN Youth Party.

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. (IANS)