BabyChakra, Healofy, an unknown brand of anti-UV sunglasses, at least five small-time recruitment agencies, and several dubious lending intermediaries and scamsters seem to be riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity by using his photograph in their ads, according to Facebook’s ad library. This is a searchable archive of advertisements on the social networking site that are political or related to national importance. This is a report in the Economic Times.
They are among small brands and savvy scamsters looking to make a big splash on social media by taking advantage of the recognition factor.
The social media giant stated that after the ads began running, it determined that they were related to politics and issues of national importance and required them to be tagged as such and taken down. Facebook said it put in place stricter rules for political advertisements in February.
All Facebook ads related to Indian politics must now abide by the company’s authorisation process launched in December. Political advertisements must display details of their publishers and funders. The Election Commission has said that the model code of conduct will apply to social media as well.
In one of the Facebook advertisements, the PM’s face had been morphed onto that of a man walking away from an explosion, holding pistols in both hands, a shotgun strapped to his back, wearing a cowboy hat and dark glasses. The ad is for PugB Wala Chashma that could be bought for Rs 799, taking off from the PM’s reference to the online game during one of his interactions with the public.
Online parenting platforms BabyChakra and Healofy show his picture next to the logo of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) and a pregnant woman. Healofy’s social media advertisement claimed that it was an Indian government pregnancy application.
Babychakra and Healofy, which are backed by investors such as Equanimity Ventures and Omidyar Network, spent a combined Rs 11 lakh on 21 advertisements. Other firms that used Modi’s photograph to advertise their products and services were job search and recruitments portals such as Freshers Group, Today Walkins, Govt Jobsify, Om Naukri and Private Jobs.
The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act of 1950 bars use of the Prime Minister’s name and picture for commercial use. PayTM and Reliance Jio came under fire for using PM Modi’s photograph for advertisements in 2016.
Some of the advertisements seemed to be scams.
A Facebook page called Digital India Mobiles advertised a non-existent government scheme launched by the PM where a smartphone can be bought for Rs 499. Other pages, Pradhan Mantri Yojna and Jandhan Yojna, claimed that a smartphone could be won by transferring Rs 99 to a PayTM account. These pages encouraged users to click on .TK domain websites, which are often used by scammers engaged in ad fraud.
The ad archive also listed some dubious Facebook pages such as The Apps Company, Kool Apps and The Best Apps, which advertised easy loans by providing Aadhaar card details.
Even though none of these pages had a following of more 50-60 people, they spent over Rs 2.75 lakh for 80 ads. The advertisements were targeted at men aged 18-34.
The Apps Company advertisement that showed Modi’s photograph under the title Modi Loan Yojana claimed that its mobile application was a guide to avail of loans for “house study and all kind of activities.” The Best Apps advertisement claimed that a borrower can get a loan against his or her Aadhaar card for up to Rs 15 lakh on the mobile phone without going to any bank.
The Facebook archive also showed Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd’s advertisement asking Modi supporters to ‘like’ its Facebook page. However, Tata Power DDL said its Facebook account had been hacked and it has lodged a complaint with the Cyber Crime Cell of the Delhi Police.
“We would like to reiterate that as a policy, Tata Power-DDL holds no inclination towards any political party or political group,” the company has quoted in the newspaper. “In order to avoid such fake posts, we have further strengthened the monitoring mechanism of our social media platforms.”