Facebook is reporting that it has removed a network of Iranian fake accounts targeting Israel, the UK, Iraq, and Afghanistan for violating its policy against foreign interference , which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity. According to a Facebook report:
March 2021 We removed 446 Facebook accounts, four Pages, three Groups and two Instagram accounts for violating our policy against foreign interference which iscoordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity. […]
We identified several clusters of activity within this network. The vast majority of it was consistent with what we previously found and reported from various Iran-linked CIB networks. The people behind it used fake accounts — many of which had already been detected and disabled by our automated systems — to create fictitious personas posing as locals in the countries they targeted, friend people, comment on other people’s posts and manage a handful of Pages. This activity was primarily carried out by fake accounts, rather than Pages or Groups, and it appears to have been active on and off starting March 2020 and into 2021. Notably, all accounts in the network did not post on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in February 2021. This network had nearly no engagement on our platform. The people behind this activity posted memes, political cartoons and other content in Arabic, English, Pashto and Hebrew about news and domestic politics in each targeted country, including Scottish independence from the UK, criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US influence in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also briefly mentioned news about COVID-19. We found this network after reviewing public reporting about a handful of its accounts focused on Israel. Our internal investigation uncovered the broader network. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals in Tehran.
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Each month, Facebook publishes a Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report where it shares its findings regarding coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) it has detected and removed from its platforms. CIB is described as coordinated efforts to manipulate public debate for a strategic goal where fake accounts are central to the operation. Past Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) coverage of Facebook’s actions against coordinated influence operations includes:
- In October, we reported that Facebook had removed a network of accounts tied to Russia’s Internet Research Agency critical of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
- In October, we also reported that Facebook had removed a huge network of real and fake accounts associated with the Falun Gong movement over violations against its foreign interference policy.
- In November, we reported that Facebook had removed a network of Iranian government-connected accounts which targeted mainly the US and Israel.