Facebook and Twitter are cracking down on inauthentic accounts stemming from Russia and Iran that were flagged as being part of coordinated manipulation to exert political influence in the U.S., U.K., Middle East, and Latin America, reports The Guardian.
Facebook announced that it had removed 652 accounts while Twitter removed 284, describing the reason behind it as “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The suspensions occurred after a report by cybersecurity firm FireEye alerted Facebook of an Iranian influence operation.
FireEye believed the intent behind the operation was to “promote Iranian political interests, including anti-Saudi, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as promote support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the US-Iran nuclear deal,” writes The Guardian.
The accounts and pages removed from Facebook were divided among four different campaigns, three of which had origins in Iran while the fourth appeared to be linked to Russian military intelligence services and was separate from the Iranian operation.
The first campaign involved a series of posts under the guise of “Liberty Front Press” that were discovered to have ties to Iranian state media. The pages and accounts posted political content about the Middle East, U.K., U.S., and Latin America. The second campaign involved accounts posing as news organizations and attempting to hack other accounts and spread malware.
Working with our industry peers today, we have suspended 284 accounts from Twitter for engaging in coordinated manipulation. Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) August 22, 2018
The third Iranian campaign shared content mostly focused on politics in the Middle East. The fourth campaign, which Facebook could not definitively attribute to Russia but appeared linked to Russian military intelligence services, focused on spreading pro-Russia messages in relation to Syria and Ukraine.
Facebook did not provide detailed information about the Iranian and Russian content that was removed but reported that they notified the U.S. and U.K. governments, who are now launching an investigation into the situation.
INSIDER reported that in addition to fake news sites, Twitter had identified fake accounts of individuals posing as people living in the U.S. and U.K., and has since removed these accounts.
FireEye noted that the accounts did not seem intended to influence the upcoming U.S. midterm elections as the content extended beyond U.S. politics. However, their initial report stressed the severity of the political disinformation operations, reported NPR.
“The activity we have uncovered is significant, and demonstrates that actors beyond Russia continue to engage in and experiment with online, social media-driven influence operations to shape political discourse.”
Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made a statement to reporters about the activity, according to The Guardian.
“Security is not something you ever fully solve. We have to constantly keep improving to stay ahead.”