Iranians used hundred of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts in covert campaign
Iran has been caught pushing a mass anti-Trump campaign on social media using hundreds of fake accounts in a covert operation designed to influence US citizens ahead of upcoming elections.
Facebook and Twitter announced this week that both companies have removed an army of fake Iranian accounts from their platforms.
According to an investigation by the cybersecurity firm which first uncovered the foreign influence campaign, FireEye, the Iranian propaganda campaign attacked President Trump and Israel, while promoting the Iran nuclear deal and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The bad actors were posing as activists with a goal of fueling liberal anti-American hate among users of the social networks.
FireEye’s investigators discovered “inauthentic social media personas, masquerading as American liberals supportive of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, heavily promoting Quds Day, a holiday established by Iran in 1979 to express support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel.”
The discovery of foreign propaganda campaigns combined with Facebook and Twitter’s recent attacks on conservative voices is creating a disturbing level of political bias online ahead of the coming US Midterms.
Daily Caller reports: Iran has a history of supporting Sanders, a socialist independent who caucuses with Democrats in Congress.
Iranian state media promoted Sanders while demonizing Trump and eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK, and US,” Facebook cybersecurity policy head Nathanial Gleicher said in a statement on Tuesday.
Facebook’s investigation found links between the Iranians’ fake accounts and Iranian state media, the company said.
“Working with our industry peers today, we have suspended 284 accounts from Twitter for engaging in coordinated manipulation,” Twitter said in a statement Tuesday evening.
“Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran.”
“Broadly speaking, the intent behind this activity appears to be to promote Iranian political interests, including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as to promote support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA),” FireEye concluded in its initial analysis published Tuesday evening.
“In the context of the U.S.-focused activity, this also includes significant anti-Trump messaging and the alignment of social media personas with an American liberal identity,” FireEye noted.
“However, it is important to note that the activity does not appear to have been specifically designed to influence the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, as it extends well beyond U.S. audiences and U.S. politics.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation previously uncovered Iranian nationals masquerading as Americans online in order to demonize Indian immigrants as part of a propaganda campaign meant to influence federal legislation.
That campaign appears to have been separate from the one uncovered by FireEye’s investigation.
Facebook also removed some Russian-linked accounts that were operating separately from the broad Iranian campaign, the company said.
“The activity we have uncovered highlights that multiple actors continue to engage in an experiment with online, social media-driven influence operations as a means of shaping political discourse.
“These operations extend well beyond those conducted by Russia, which has often been the focus of research into information operations over recent years,” FireEye stated.
“Our investigation also illustrates how the threat posed by such influence operations continues to evolve, and how similar influence tactics can be deployed irrespective of the particular political or ideological goals being pursued.”