Facebook bans fake news network run by Iran’s state broadcaster

Iran’s state broadcaster has used hundreds of fake social media accounts to covertly spread pro-Iranian propaganda since at least 2011, targeting voters in countries including the United Kingdom and the United States, according to a report released by Facebook on Tuesday.

In a monthly report of accounts suspended for “coordinated inauthentic behavior”, Facebook said it removed eight networks in recent weeks, including one with links to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB).

A Reuters investigation in 2018 found that one Tehran-based fake news network used more than 70 websites masquerading as local news outlets to covertly disseminate Iranian state propaganda in more than 15 countries, at one point tricking the then Pakistani defense minister into issuing a nuclear threat against Israel.

The newly identified network had used similar tactics, including posing as independent media websites and charitable organizations, to target countries from Algeria and Bangladesh to the UK and Zimbabwe.

The network used more than 500 accounts on Facebook and Instagram to publish articles and memes that are aligned with Iranian geopolitical interests.

In recent months, the accounts shared content stating that Zionists and American Jews invented the coronavirus. The accounts also suggested sanctions on Iran and its ally Syria be lifted amid the emergency.