TTP Report: Facebook Black Market for Ad Accounts Looms Over India Election


Contact: Michael Clauw,, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report showing that Facebook is allowing users to buy and sell accounts that can run political ads in India—raising concerns they could be used to interfere in the country’s ongoing elections. Although Facebook parent company Meta’s policies ban the sale, purchase, or exchange of accounts, these sellers were openly engaging in this trade, often in public Facebook groups that had tens of thousands of members. The findings raise serious questions about Facebook’s inability, or unwillingness, to clean up this black market—both for the remaining duration of the elections in India, and before any ballots are cast in the United States this November.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “This is far from the first time we’ve seen Meta fail to enforce its own policies, but what we’re seeing here has the potential to interfere with the world’s largest democratic election in India. It’s easy to see how the accounts offered by these black market sellers could be used to spread disinformation, so Meta must treat this as the serious electoral threat that it is.”

Read TTP’s report.

These new findings follow a 2022 TTP report, which identified more than 100 Facebook groups where users bought and sold Facebook “business manager” accounts that are equipped to run multiple ad campaigns, including political ads. For both reports, TTP researchers did not engage with the sellers and could not determine how many accounts they sold or how those accounts are being used. However, after reviewing TTP’s 2022 findings, journalists at Forbes obtained an account from a black market seller and determined that it appeared capable of running ads.

Facebook has a history of allowing election interference via fake accounts, most famously ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, when Russian operatives using stolen identities purchased ads on Facebook to promote Donald Trump and stoke political divisions. The accounts identified by TTP appear to be tailor-made for the same kind of activity in India.

Facebook has already faced questions about its activities in India. In March 2022, reports revealed that the company gave India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a better deal on ads than other political parties in the country and allowed “ghost” advertisers to boost the BJP without disclosing their identities or affiliation. Meta later published a lengthy statement about its pledge to “free and fair elections in India,” yet the scale of the black market activity exposed in TTP’s research calls that commitment into question.

In a potentially ominous sign for the November U.S. election, one user identified by TTP posted a message in January 2024 that read, “Need USA verified facebook accounts for politics?” The user’s account gave his location as Wallasey, England, and listed his occupation as selling Facebook business manager accounts.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “It’s inexcusable that nearly eight years on from Facebook’s spectacular failure to safeguard the 2016 U.S. elections, the platform is still having these kinds of problems—now on a global scale. If Meta can’t find a way to profit from political ads safely, it shouldn’t allow this type of advertising at all.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.