Facebook deletes 783 'inauthentic' pages, accounts tied to Iran

Social media company says removed accounts were part of an Iranian campaign targeting people in more than 20 countries.

    Facebook and Twitter have both cracked down significantly on fake accounts since 2016 [Jon Nazca/Reuters]
    Facebook and Twitter have both cracked down significantly on fake accounts since 2016 [Jon Nazca/Reuters]

    Facebook said it has removed 783 accounts, pages and groups tied to Iran for engaging in what it called "coordinated inauthentic behaviour". 

    In a statement on Thursday, the social media company said the alleged Iranian campaign targeted people across the world and, in some cases, pushed repurposed content from Iranian state media. 

    "The Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories on current events," Facebook said.

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    "This included commentary that repurposed Iranian state media’s reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia," it added.

    "Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review linked these accounts to Iran."

    The statement included several screenshots of posts from the deleted accounts and pages.

    They included accounts on Instagram, a photo-sharing network owned by Facebook.

    These accounts spent about $30,000 on advertising to promote certain pages on Facebook and Instagram, the statement said.

    The operation - dating back to as early as 2010 - had 262 pages, 356 accounts and three groups on Facebook, as well as 162 accounts on Instagram. They were followed by about two million users.

    Facebook said the fake accounts were part of an influence campaign that operated in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the US and Yemen.

    Meanwhile, Twitter also said on Thursday it had deleted thousands of accounts that tried to influence the 2018 US midterm elections. 

    Those accounts originated from Iran, Russia, Venezuela and  Bangladesh, with the vast majority originating from Iran, according to a dataset published by Twitter

    The social media company said it "identified much less platform manipulation from bad-faith actors located abroad" during the 2018 elections as compared to the 2016 US presidential election. 

    Both Facebook and Twitter have cracked down on fake accounts since 2016 when accounts linked to Russia were accused of sowing misinformation to influence the presidential election

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies