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Facebook pulls dozens of Iran-based 'disinformation' accounts

By Ed Adamczyk
Facebook pulls dozens of Iran-based 'disinformation' accounts
Facebook said Friday it removed dozens of Iranian-based accounts for provoking responses to political issues online. File Photo by Gian Ehrenzeller

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Facebook said Friday it's removed dozens of Iranian-based accounts for contributing disinformation campaigns against the United States.

The social media giant said in a statement it "removed multiple pages, groups and accounts that originated in Iran for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram."

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In all, 82 accounts were purged, Facebook said.

The company wrote on its blog the account owners misrepresented themselves as U.S. or British citizens and repeatedly posted comments on politically divisive topics. The accounts had more than a million followers, Facebook said.

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Friday's announcement follows months of efforts by U.S.-based social media companies to scrub phony and provocative accounts from their platforms -- and two weeks before the U.S. midterm elections.

Facebook uncovered a propaganda operation traced to Iranian state media in August, which it said was the largest of its kind since Russian operatives spread falsehoods during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Iran and Russia have denied involvement in Internet campaigns, and Facebook cybersecurity chief Nathaniel Gleicher said no ties to the Iranian government were found with the purged accounts.

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Facebook said the Iranian accounts attempted to provoke outrage over racial matters in the United States, the impact of lobbyists on the U.S. Congress, the actions of President Donald Trump, the recent controversy over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and other timely news stories.

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The posts, on Facebook and Instagram, received large numbers of shares and replies, Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Laboratory said.

"This looks like an Iranian disinformation operation that has learned from the Russian operations," Nimmo said. He also said unlike previous inauthentic activity, which directed users to websites, the removed Iranian accounts focused on social media.

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