Facebook and Twitter takes actions against accounts used in an Iran-based social media campaign to sway public opinion by impersonating reporters, politicians and others. VNS File photo
SAN FRANCISCO Facebook and Twitter said Tuesday they shuttered accounts used in an Iran-based social media campaign to sway public opinion by impersonating reporters, politicians and others.
Facebook removed 51 accounts, 36 pages and seven groups from the social network and another three from Instagram after investigating a tip from internet security firm FireEye, according to head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher.
Twitter told AFP that it removed a network of 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran in early May, but was not privy to the FireEye findings made public Tuesday.
"Our investigations into these accounts are ongoing," a Twitter spokeswoman said, declining to discuss details until the analysis was finished.
A network of English-language social media accounts misrepresenting who was behind them was evidently orchestrated to promote Iranian political interests, according to California-based FireEye.
"In addition to utilizing fake American personas that espoused both progressive and conservative political stances, some accounts impersonated real American individuals, including a handful of Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in 2018," FireEye said in a blog post.
- Playing the press -
Those in the influence network had material published in US and Israelimedia outlets, lobbied journalists to cover certain topics, and appear to have orchestrated interviews in the US and Britain regarding politics, according to FireEye.
It was not immediately clear whether this campaign was related to a broader Iran-based social media influence operation uncovered last year, FireEye said.
"The individuals behind this activity, which also took place on other internet platforms and websites, misled people about who they were and what they were doing," Gleicher said.
Those actors claimed to be located in the United States or Europe and used fake accounts to run pages or groups as they impersonated legitimate news organizations in the Middle East, according to Facebook.
"The individuals behind this activity also represented themselves as journalists or other personas and tried to contact policymakers, reporters, academics, Iranian dissidents and other public figures," Gleicher said.
Facebook content was posted in English or Arabic. Topics of discussion included public figures, US secessionist movements, Islam, Saudi Arabian influence in the Middle East and politics in the United States and Britain.
About 21,000 accounts followed one or more of the Facebook pages, while about 1,900 accounts joined one or more of the groups and around 2,600 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts, according to Gleicher.
FireEye said that some accounts in the social media campaign claimed to be activists, correspondents or "free journalists" in descriptions of the users.
"Narratives promoted by these and other accounts in the network included anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes," FireEye said.
Accounts expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- the deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
They also opposed the Trump administration's designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to the cybersecurity firm. AFP