Facebook and Twitter remove hundreds of fake propaganda pages

The companies said the accounts belonged to Russian and Iranian actors and were aimed at 'coordinated manipulation'.

    Facebook and Twitter have removed several hundred fake accounts used for propaganda and other forms of what the companies called "coordinated manipulation".

    Twitter on Tuesday announced the deletion of the accounts on its platform, saying it was able to link the accounts to the Iranian government.

    Without delving into specifics, the social media said the 284 deleted accounts were "engaging in coordinated manipulation".

    Facebook also announced it had removed 652 pages, accounts and groups originating from Iran targeting people in the Middle East, Latin America, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    In addition, Facebook removed an undisclosed number of pages linked to a Russian firm that has been accused of trying to influence opinions on social media in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential elections.

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    The pages were found after cybersecurity firm FireEye contacted Facebook about suspicious activity.

    "Based on FireEye's tip, we started an investigation into 'Liberty Front Press' and identified additional accounts and Pages from their network," Facebook said in a statement.

    "We are able to link this network to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins," it added.

    The content posted by the hundreds of pages related to contentious political issues like the relationship between the US and North Korea, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Brexit.

    According to Facebook, ads worth more than $12,000 were bought to promote the different pages and pieces of content, both on Facebook and on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

    Facebook also said it had removed several pages, groups and accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russia-based company associated with Russian intelligence agencies.

    According to Facebook, there were no signed the Russian and Iranian disinformation campaigns were working together.

    Fake websites

    IRA has been accused by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller of trying to influence the 2016 US presidential elections.

    In February, Mueller's investigation indicted 13 Russian nationals who were involved with the IRA.

    Using fake personas, Russian operatives bought online advertisements aimed at spreading divisive messages, including ads focused on racial tensions.

    Over the last year, Facebook has attempted to combat propaganda and fake news on its platform in an attempt to regain credibility it lost following the spread of contentious content in recent years, especially around the 2016 US presidential elections and the Brexit campaign in the UK

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    The news comes one day after Microsoft announced it had deleted six web pages belonging to hackers who attempted to interfere with the US midterm elections in November.

    The sites, closed last week, specifically targeted two Republican think-tanks,

    Russia's foreign ministry denounced Microsoft's accusation, saying Microsoft was taking part in " a witch-hunt that has engulfed Washington".

    Last month, Microsoft said Russian hackers targeted the staff of several US senators using similar techniques. 

    Over the last two years, 84 websites have been taken down by the company's digital crimes unit.

    Facebook and the murky world of digital advertising

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    Facebook and the murky world of digital advertising

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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