Science & Tech

Facebook Purges Iranian Accounts Posing as Americans to Stir Left-Wing Outrage

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Facebook on Friday deleted 82 accounts, groups, and pages associated with an Iranian propaganda campaign designed to exacerbate partisan outrage.

The campaign, which consisted of 30 pages, 33 Facebook accounts, 16 Instagram accounts, and three groups, fixated on charged racial and political issues — such as Colin Kaepernick’s on-field protest movement and the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court — to incite anti-Republican and anti-Trump administration sentiment in users.

The pages reached a combined audience of 1.02 million users and at least seven events were hosted by the accounts, pages, and groups.

“Today we removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that originated in Iran for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in a Friday press release. “This is when people or organizations create networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing. We prohibit coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook because we want people who use our services to be able to trust the connections they make.”

Facebook established an “elections war room” this year to combat the dissemination of political misinformation across its platforms in response to the public scrutiny that arose following the exposure of a Russian propaganda campaign designed to divide Americans ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in Friday’s press release that a similar dynamic was at play in the recently exposed Iranian influence campaign, though no ties to the Iranian government have yet been established.

“The Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as US citizens, or in a few cases UK citizens — and they posted about politically charged topics such as race relations, opposition to the President, and immigration. Despite attempts to hide their true identities, a manual review of these accounts linked their activity to Iran,” Gleicher said.

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