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Facebook, Twitter Shut Down Thousands of Iranian Fake Accounts

Social media giant Facebook has announced that it removed dozens of accounts, pages, and groups linked to Iran for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The company also disabled several accounts on its sister-platform Instagram.

Facebook cited in its statement Tuesday a report by the cybersecurity company FireEye, which revealed that the network of accounts had focused on promoting “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes,” as well as expressing support for policies favorable to Iran, such as the 2015 nuclear accord.

The report noted that fake Iranian-directed accounts posed “as everyday Americans that were used to promote content from inauthentic news sites.” In total, Facebook, said it removed 54 accounts, 36 pages, and seven groups across its platforms.

Twitter, which is also linked to Facebook profiles, said in a statement that it had “removed this network of 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran at the beginning of May,” adding that its investigation was ongoing.

Lee Foster, a researcher with FireEye, said although the company has “confidence” the network was created to push Iranian political interests in the West, “We’re not at the point where we can say who was doing it or where it’s coming from.”

Facebook similarly concluded that the illicit activity originated in Iran. In February, the social media giant deleted the first round of “inauthentic” pages, groups, and accounts tied to the Iranian regime designed to manipulate users in more than 20 countries, including Israel.

Around the same time, the U.S. intelligence community released its annual World Threat Assessment report in which it described Iran as an “increasingly sophisticated” cyber espionage threat to the United States and allied countries.

“Iran, which has used social media campaigns to target audiences in both the United States and allied nations with messages aligned with Iranian interests, will continue to use online influence operations to try to advance its interests,” the Senate report warned.

[Photo: Public Domain / Max Pixel]