Facebook banned 652 Iranian trolls, pages and groups engaged in anti-Israel propaganda
Facebook has banned 652 Iranian accounts, pages and groups. The accounts were used for political disinformation, were engaged in anti-Israel propaganda and targeted at users in the Middle East, Latin America, the UK and the US.
The Iranian propaganda campaign pushed messages attacking President Trump and Israel while promoting the Iran nuclear deal and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to an investigation by cybersecurity firm FireEye, which first uncovered the foreign influence campaign.
FireEye’s investigation found inauthentic social media personas, masquerading as American liberals supportive of US Senator Bernie Sanders, heavily promoting Quds Day, a holiday established by Iran in 1979 as a platform for Muslim terror-sympathizers to incite violence and hate against Israel.
Iran has a history of supporting Sanders while demonizing Trump and eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Facebook’s investigation found links between the Iranians’ fake accounts and Iranian state media, the company said.
Facebook said its latest action resulted from four investigations — three involving Iran, one involving Russia.
The first focused on a group called “Liberty Front Press” that set up multiple accounts on Facebook and Instagram that were followed by 155,000 other accounts. The group was linked to Iranian state media based on website registrations, IP addresses and administrator accounts, Facebook said. The first accounts FireEye called the Liberty Front Press group an influence operation apparently aimed at promoting Iranian political interests “including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes” and support for the US-Iran nuclear deal.
The second group also had multiple accounts and 15,000 followers. The group was linked to “Liberty Front Press” and attempted to hack people’s accounts to spread malware. Facebook said it disrupted those attempts.
A third group also operated out of Iran had as many as 813,000 followers, and also shared political content about the Middle East, the U.K. and U.S.
In all the Iranian-linked groups spent some $12,000 in advertising and hosted 28 different events.
A fourth group that attempted to influence politics in Syria and Ukraine was connected to sources that Facebook said the U.S. had linked to Russian military intelligence.
“We’re working closely with U.S. law enforcement on this investigation,” Facebook said in a blog post.