Facebook, Twitter delete hundreds of fake Iranian & Russian accounts

Amid worries of foreign attempts to influence U.S. midterm elections, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have remove hundreds of accounts used to push Iranian and Russian agendas, citing, “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and “manipulation.”

News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet have collectively removed ‎hundreds of accounts tied to Russian and Iranian ‎users that cybersecurity firm FireEye‎ said were ‎promoting Russia’s and Iran’s ‎geopolitical agendas around the world.‎

Some of the Twitter and Facebook accounts were designed to ‎appear as if they belonged to real people in the United States, ‎Britain and Canada, according to FireEye. The ‎accounts used various hashtags to ‎engage in U.S. culture, including “lockhimup,” ‎‎”impeachtrump” and “notmypresident.”‎

We couldn’t help but notice this on Twitter, earlier in the week. – Screenshot: IsraelandStuff/PP

Twitter called the effort “coordinated ‎manipulation” and said it had removed 284 accounts.‎

Facebook said it had removed 652 pages, ‎groups, ‎and accounts linked to Russia and Iran, citing ‎‎”coordinated inauthentic ‎behavior.” ‎

Hundreds of thousands of people followed Facebook pages implicated in the campaign. ‎

The move was the result of four ‎investigations – three involving ‎Iran and one ‎involving Russia – FireEye said.‎

Facebook said the accounts spent about $12,000 in various currencies to ‎advertise through Facebook and Instagram. The social media giant said ‎it had notified the U.S. Treasury and State departments of the purchases, which may ‎violate sanctions.‎

U.S. conglomerate Alphabet, which includes Google and YouTube, was unavailable for comment.‎

According to FireEye, the Iranian-linked campaign ‎used a network of fake news websites and fraudulent ‎social media personas across Facebook, Instagram, ‎Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube to push narratives ‎in line with Iranian interests.‎

The campaign was aimed at users in the United ‎States, the U.K., Latin America and the Middle East.‎

Iranian activity included “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, ‎and pro-Palestinian themes,” and advocacy of policies ‎favorable to Iran such as the 2015 Iran nuclear ‎deal, FireEye said.‎

The Iranian Mission to the United Nations was unavailable for comment.‎

Russia has been linked to similar online influence ‎‎campaigns, including an effort to sow political ‎‎divisions among U.S. voters.

But FireEye said its ‎‎findings showed that the same tactics are now being ‎‎used for different aims.‎

The finding comes as concerns are rising about ‎foreign attempts to disrupt the U.S. midterm ‎elections in November.‎

Microsoft on Monday said that hackers linked to the ‎Russian government sought to steal email login ‎credentials from U.S. politicians and think tanks.‎

Facebook has significantly stepped up policing of ‎its platform since last year, when it acknowledged ‎that Russian agents successfully ran political ‎influence operations on the social media platform aimed at swaying ‎the 2016 presidential election.‎

The social network said it had not concluded its ‎review of the material and declined to say how or ‎why state-backed actors were behaving the way they ‎did.‎

‎”There’s a lot we don’t know yet. We’re working ‎closely with U.S. law enforcement on ‎this ‎investigation,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. ‎

FireEye said the Iranian activity did not appear to be ‎‎”dedicated” to influencing the upcoming U.S. midterm elections, ‎though some of the posts aimed at American users did ‎adopt “left-leaning identities” and took stances ‎against President Donald Trump.‎

That activity “could suggest a more active attempt ‎to influence domestic U.S. political discourse is ‎forthcoming. We just haven’t seen that yet,” said ‎Lee Foster, an information operations analyst with ‎FireEye.‎

The firm said U.S.-focused activity ‎ramped up last year, after Trump took ‎office, with websites and social media accounts ‎posting memes and articles, some ‎apparently copied from legitimate U.S. and Iranian ‎news outlets.‎

Arabic-language, Middle East-focused websites appear ‎to be part of the same campaign, the company said.‎


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