On the identification that certain pages, groups, and accounts were involved in organized wrong information campaigns in Iran and some other targeted countries globally, Facebook has gone ahead to pull down 652 accounts.
Facebook also reportedly discovered some new pages that have links with Russia. The pages and groups linked to Iran circulated misinformation in the US, UK, the Middle East and Latin America. Some of the pages allegedly worked under a group referred to as Liberty Front Press.
Facebook reported that the organized campaigns which originated in Iran had 254 pages on Facebook and 116 accounts on Instagram. The two accounts allegedly had over a million followers. Facebook noted that those who ran the pages used over $12,000 for advertising between the year 2012 to 2017.
Preparation for Forthcoming Elections
Ahead of the forthcoming November US midterm elections, Facebook and some other social media firms such as Twitter have begun taking steps geared towards the protection of their platforms. This is in order to prevent a reoccurrence of the severe disinformation that occurred during the last presidential campaign.
The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that the company’s efforts in picking out fake pages, account and groups are all contributing to making the platform safer for users. While speaking to reporters, Zuckerberg noted that even though the efforts are still in the early stages, they are beginning to get results. He added that they hope to identify more of such pages before the coming election.
On Tuesday, Twitter also announced that it had succeeded in the identification and consequent removal of 284 accounts. The accounts reportedly had links to Iran for activities considered to be coordinated manipulation. Twitter noted that it is working hand in hand with law enforcement agencies and some other tech companies.
The implication of the Activities
Analysts noted that the announcements by these companies show how strongly the foreign countries are still involved in influencing political discourse globally. Facebook’s announcement came sometime after Microsoft gained control of certain websites which it reported the Russian military intelligence likely used to try to hack some American politicians. Facebook stated that it took actions following its discovery of coordinated behavior that is inauthentic by some actors. According to the company, those actors were trying to mislead other people about their identity and their actions.
Facebook revealed that a part of the Library Front Press claimed to be an independent media organization in Iran. It, however, turned out that it had links to a news network that has an affiliation with the Iran state media. A couple of the pages were allegedly identified after the company got a tip from FireEye, a cybersecurity firm. FireEye reportedly stated that the activities linked to the Iranian government which it uncovered didn’t appear to be designed as a dedicated attempt to influence the forthcoming midterm elections in the US.
The cybersecurity firm, however, added that it did not excuse the fact that such attempts were made. The firm added that the latest reorientation of certain social media accounts so as to adopt left-leaning identities could be indications of a timely shift toward more concrete effort to strategically influence the domestic political conversations in the US.
A portion of the content that Facebook took down had traced to groups which were previously linked to GRU. GRU happens to be the major military intelligence agency of Russia. Robert Mueller reportedly indicted twelve members of this agency as they were accused of hacking the Democratic party.
Facebook also stated that the recent Russian accounts, pages, and groups that it removed had no relations to the ones originating from Iran and they also did not have the US as their target. Facebook noted specifically that the pages had focused activities on Syrian and Ukraine politics.
Facebook is reportedly working with law enforcement in the US in an investigation. The company noted that it had been tailing suspect accounts for a couple of months. It utilized clues such as IP addresses and website registration to trace Liberty Front Press to the Iran state media.
The first set of the accounts of the Liberty Front Press discovered by Facebook were originally created as far back as 2013. Also, some other suspicious pages and accounts that originated in Iran indicated that they were created in 2011. Facebook removed over 30 pages in July as it noted that they formed a part of a coordinated campaign dedicated to posting misleading information.