Facebook Pulls Plug on Iranian Disinformation Campaign

The network linked to Iran's state broadcaster is said to have used a combination of fake and authentic accounts to post in groups, manage pages, and drive people to off-platform sites, sometimes using repurposed Iranian state media content


Photo: Reuters

In a monthly report issued this week, Facebook said it took down an Iranian disinformation network that had been targeting many countries.

According to the April Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, the company removed 118 pages, 389 Facebook accounts, 27 groups, and 6 Instagram accounts that operated on behalf of Iran. Some posed as news or nongovernmental organizations in the country that was targeted.

Facebook said its investigation found that the disinformation network was linked to Iran's state broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation.

The campaign was said to have targeted countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, the US, UK and Zimbabwe.

The network is said to have used a combination of fake and authentic accounts to post in groups, manage pages, and drive people to off-platform sites. 

"They sometimes repurposed Iranian state media content and posted primarily in Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian, and English about geopolitical and local news relevant to each region including topics like the civil war in Syria, the Arab Spring protests, the tensions between Libya and Turkey, criticism of Saudi involvement in the Middle East and Africa, Al Qaeda’s actions in Africa, the Occupy movement in the US, criticism of US policies in the Middle East and the 2012 US elections," the report said.

Seven other networks involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior were also shut down by Facebook in April.

"We know that people looking to mislead others — whether through phishing, scams, or influence operations — try to leverage crises to advance their goals, and the coronavirus pandemic is no different," the report said, adding "we’ve seen people behind these campaigns opportunistically use coronavirus-related posts among many other topics to build an audience and drive people to their Pages or off-platform sites."

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