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Facebook Removes Network Of Fake Accounts Linked To Iran

April 15th, 2021 11:27

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 is​​coordinated 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.

Read the rest here.

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.