FIA denies claim that Facebook is opening an office in Pakistan

The Agency also denied that a meeting was held in this regard.

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Claim: Facebook has initiated talks with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) about the prospect of opening up a local office in the country. A meeting was held between representatives affiliated with the platform and FIA Cyber Crime Wing Director Humayun Bashir in this regard.

Fact: The FIA denied the reports in a statement issued via Twitter on 31 May 2022. The Agency clarified that it has not issued any statements regarding conversations with Facebook about the social media platform establishing an office in Pakistan. 

Fact or Fiction?

On 31 May 2022, Facebook page MangoBaaz shared a post claiming that Facebook has initiated talks with the FIA to discuss opening a local office in Pakistan. 

The headline of the post reads, “Facebook initiate talks to open local office in Pakistan.” The caption of the post states that a company representative from Meta, Facebook’s parent company, had a meeting with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cybercrime’s Director Humayun Bashir about possibly establishing a permanent office in Pakistan. 

On Facebook, a number of pages shared posts with the claim, including the verified  page of Samaa English. Posts carrying the claim were also shared by other pages including ProPakistani, Pakistani Journal, TechX, TechJuice, among others.

Soch Fact Check found the claim to be false. In response to the viral claim, the Federal Investigation Agency issued a clarification on 31 May 2022 via tweet, explaining that it did not issue a statement regarding the opening of a Facebook office in Pakistan and denied the viral claim. “No such official statement was made by FIA and the same is strongly denied,” the statement read. It continued, “The story also published the name of an FIA officer which is misleading.” 

To further investigate the claim, Soch Fact Check reached out to Facebook’s communication team. “Please refer to the statement issued by the concerned department [FIA],” they responded. 

Later, ProPakistani revised the headline on a story about the claim published to its website. The new headline reads, “Facebook is Not Opening a Local Office in Pakistan [Updated].” It also included an update in the body of the story stating that the FIA has denied reports of Facebook opening a local office in Pakistan. The outlet did not, however, revise the caption or headline of their post on Facebook.

Samaa English also changed their website story’s headline from, “Facebook initiate talks to open local office in Pakistan”, to ,“No, Facebook is not opening an office in Pakistan”.  However, no revisions have been made to the headline of the news outlet’s Facebook post.

Soch Fact Check confirmed that ProPakistani and Samaa English changed the headlines of their stories by checking the URLs which still include the original headlines about Facebook initiating talks to open an office in Pakistan. 

“Facebook (also known as Meta) has initiated talks with Pakistan about opening a permanent office in the country, with a company representative meeting with Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cybercrime Director Humayun Bashir, SAMAA TV reported on Monday,” the caption of the aforementioned post reads. 

Virality

According to a CrowdTangle analysis conducted by Soch Fact Check, the search term, “Facebook opening local office Pakistan”, turned up 33 posts on Facebook which received 4,131 interactions over the three-day period leading up to 31 May 2022. 

The report became fairly popular and was shared by multiple Facebook pages, groups and websites, many of which carried the story in question with the same or very similar headlines and/or captions:

  • Facebook wants to open a local office in Pakistan
  • Facebook initiate talks to open local office in Pakistan
  • Facebook wishes to establish a local office in Pakistan

The analysis revealed that ProPakistani’s post is performing 9.10x better than other similar posts on Facebook with 822 likes and 69 shares followed by MangoBaaz’s post which, at the time of publishing, had received 2,800 likes and 117 shares. 

Multiple groups also shared the claim; here, here, here, here, here and here.

Some websites also carried the claim; here, here, here and here

Conclusion: Contrary to misleading claims circulating on social media, the FIA has denied reports that Facebook has initiated talks with the agency to discuss the prospect of the platform establishing an office in Pakistan. The FIA clarified that it has not issued any statements to suggest such talks are taking place. 

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