Facebook allowed a network of fake accounts to artificially inflate the popularity of an MP from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), for months after being alerted to the problem.
The company was preparing to remove the fake accounts but paused when it found evidence that the politician was probably directly involved in the network, internal documents seen by the Guardian show.
The company’s decision not to take timely action against the network, which it had already determined violated its policies, is just the latest example of Facebook holding the powerful to lower standards than it does regular users.
“It’s not fair to have one justice system for the rich and important and one for everyone else, but that’s essentially the route that Facebook has carved out,” said Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist for Facebook who uncovered the inauthentic network. Zhang has come forward to expose the company’s failure to address how its platform is being used to manipulate political discourse around the world.
Facebook’s failure to act against the MP will also raise questions about Facebook’s relationship with the Hindu nationalist party. Facebook has repeatedly treated rule violations by BJP leaders with undue leniency, the Wall Street Journal reported in August 2020.
Since Narendra Modi and the BJP harnessed the power of Facebook and took power in India’s 2014 general election, deceptive social media tactics have become commonplace in Indian politics, according to local experts.