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AAP, BJP, INC used fake FB profiles to influence Delhi polls: Whistleblower

AAP, BJP, INC used fake FB profiles to influence Delhi polls: Whistleblower

Facebook whistle-blower Sophie Zhang.

New Delhi: In yet another explosive revelation against the social networking giant, Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist at Facebook has claimed that the company took selective action against the fake accounts which were used during the 2020 Delhi Assembly election by AAP, Congress and BJP to influence the narrative.

Sophie Zhang, who has now turned whistleblower, alleges the BJP, the Congress, and the Aam Aadmi Party used fake accounts to influence the polls, however, only the network of accounts directly linked to a BJP lawmaker was not removed by Facebook.

"AAP supporters used fake accounts to portray themselves as supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who were switching to (Arvind) Kejriwal in order to fight corruption," Sophie Zhang said.

Ms Zhang said she found four fake networks in late 2019 of which two supported the BJP and the other two Congress. "We took down three of the networks, two INC, one BJP network. We were about to take down the last network but suddenly they stopped because they realized that the fourth network was directly, personally run by the BJP politician and that was the network that I was unable to do anything about."

A month later, in January 2020, Ms Zhang claims she discovered a network of "thousands of accounts" that was being used to spread pro-AAP political messages and the accounts were falsely portraying themselves as BJP supporters who had voted for PM Modi and were choosing to support AAP in the Delhi elections for the "apparent purpose of winning over other BJP supporters".

This fifth network was taken down by the end of January, she said.

Zhang said it was a way to deceive people to think that supporters of PM Modi were unhappy with him. Flagging the menace of misinformation, Sophie Zhang said the official goal of Facebook was to make money and not save democracy.

"The only case in which we knew who was responsible was a BJP politician that I was not able to take down," she added.

The whistleblower said despite repeated reminders, Facebook even refused to acknowledge the problem.

"Democracy cannot survive if there is one set of rules for the elites and powerful and one set of rules for everyone else," Ms Zhang told NDTV.

The whistleblower had recently testified before a UK parliamentary committee and said Facebook is used as a platform for political manipulation.

She said it is now up to India to hold Facebook responsible.

Earlier this month, Francis Haugen, a former Facebook employee turned whistleblower, testified before the US Senate committee about her experience in Facebook and called on Congress to take strict action against the social media company for allegedly creating a toxic environment for teens on Instagram.

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TAGS:Aam admi party BJP Facebook whistleblower 
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