Facebook and Twitter have pulled down more than 300 accounts for spewing extremists’ messages and some even looking to influence political discourse ahead of the US midterm elections in November. Most of these accounts originate from Iraq and according to the social media platforms, they were found to be engaged in coordinated “inauthentic behaviour.”
According to the platforms, the action was undertaken following a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc, which said that the accounts were found to be promoting Iranian propaganda, including discussion of anti-saudi, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian themes as well as support for specific U.S. policies favourable to Iran,” such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.
We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behaviour that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said in a blog post. Twitter called the effort “coordinated manipulation.”
The account removals come weeks after Facebook took down accounts originating in Russia for engaging in deceiving behaviour.
The accounts shut down by Facebook altogether had at least 813,000 followers and posted in English, Arabic and Farsi. They falsely posed as news and civil society organizations to spread political disinformation and ran at least $12,000 worth of ads on Facebook and Instagram.
In July, Facebook shut down 32 Russia-linked accounts and pages on Facebook and Instagram. The Facebook news comes on the same day that Microsoft revealed that a Russian military intelligence unit had targeted conservative American think tanks. Microsoft said it had shut down 84 fake websites associated with this group in just two years.