On Facebook, dubious networks spend crores to fuel BJP bias

Facebook pages masquerading as digital creators targeted parties in Delhi, West Bengal, Odisha, and four southern states. Who is behind them?

WrittenBy:Binu Karunakaran
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“I think the real name of this Kejru will not be Arvind, [but] Abdullah,” said a spiteful post published on the Facebook page Sidha Chashma on March 31. It accused Kejriwal, currently in jail for his alleged role in the excise policy scam, of scuttling a sexual violence case because the medical college professor accused of the crime was a Muslim called Salim Shaikh. The content was a blatant violation of Facebook’s community guidelines mandated for pages promoting political content.

The Sidha Chashma account, which identifies as a digital creator, has a cartoon as its display picture – a man with a Nehru cap and oversized spectacles. Created on March 5, 2024, the page, with over 800 followers, has since spent more than Rs 21 lakh to promote the scurrilous content it serves – mostly memes, videos, and posters – targeting rival politicians from the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress, and the Samajwadi Party.

A TNM investigation has uncovered three shadowy networks of social media pages that are promoting right-wing narratives against Opposition parties in the guise of political satire to a vast online audience, through paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. These networks, leveraging the reach and targeting capabilities of Meta’s advertising platform, have together spent more than Rs 7 crore since 2019 to infiltrate news feeds and influence public opinion with biased narratives.

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