Twitter helps Facebook disable 783 Iran-linked accounts

The bogus Facebook accounts that were focused on Israel were run by misrepresented Iranian sources highlighting the Palestinian issue and undermining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s credibility.

By Niv Lilien, News Agencies & Israel Hayom Staff


Facebook said Thursday it has removed 783 Iran-linked pages, accounts and groups from its service for what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That’s the social network’s term for fake accounts run with the intent of disrupting politics and elections.

Facebook has been disclosing such purges more regularly in recent months, including ones linked to groups in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Russia.

Cyber-security flushes out fake accounts. [illustrative] – Photo: IsraelandStuff/PP

The accounts on Facebook and Instagram typically misrepresented themselves as locals in more than two dozen countries ranging from Israel, the United States, European Union member countries, Yemen, Pakistan, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Germany, India and Saudi Arabia.

Facebook said Thursday the accounts spent about $30,000 on advertisements, paid for in U.S. dollars, British pounds, Canadian dollars and euros.

The company said Twitter helped its investigation by sharing information about suspicious activity it found on its own service. The companies, along with others in the tech industry, have been cooperating more when it comes to such account takedowns by sharing information.

Such cooperation can help the companies avoid regulatory scrutiny by showing critics and lawmakers that they can set aside differences when it comes to battling outside threats that affect their users.

The latest removed accounts, Facebook said, typically represented themselves as locals in various countries, often using fake accounts and posting news stories on current events. This included using stories from Iranian state media about conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

On the Israeli front, the Iranian effort focused on highlighting the Palestinian issue and the situation in Syria. Facebook also said that some of the Iranian fake accounts were critical and derisive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In September 2018, Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky warned that Iran’s propaganda and misinformation campaign ‎against Israel includes fake news websites in ‎Hebrew and Arabic.‎

ClearSky at the time also identified 14 fake Facebook ‎profiles and 11 fake Twitter accounts, with thousands of followers between them, that were part ‎of the Iranian misinformation network. Many of these ‎accounts were shut down after being ‎uncovered, the company said.


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