Social networking organizations are struggling to stop attempts by individuals inside and outside the United States to spread false information on their platforms with goals which range from destabilising elections by stoking hardline positions to encouraging propaganda campaigns.
Facebook stated it eliminated 82 pages, groups and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that represented themselves as being British or American citizens, subsequently posted on”politically charged” topics like race relations, opposition to US President Donald Trump and immigration, Facebook’s head of cyber-security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a blog post.
In total, the removed accounts brought over 1 million followers. The Iran-linked posts were amplified through less than $100 in ads on Facebook and Instagram, Facebook said.
While the accounts came in Iran, it was unclear if they were connected to the Tehran authorities, according to Facebook, which shared the data with investigators, other technology businesses and the British and US governments.
The Iranian UN mission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The action follows takedowns in August from Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet of countless accounts linked to political propaganda.
The most recent operation was more sophisticated in some cases, making it difficult to spot, Gleicher said during a press conference telephone call on Friday.
Even though most of accounts and pages had existed since earlier this season, they brought more followers than the accounts removed in August, some of which dated back into 2013. The formerly suspended Iranian pages and accounts obtained roughly 983,000 followers before being removed.
“It looks like the aim was to embed in highly engaged and active communities by posting inflammatory content, and then insert messaging Saudi and Israel which amplified the Iranian government’s narrative,” said Ben Nimmo, an info defence fellow with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.
“Most of the posts worried divisive issues in america, and published a liberal or progressive viewpoint, especially on race relations and police violence,” Nimmo said.
Social media companies have increasingly targeted foreign interference in their platforms after criticism that they did not do enough to detect, halt and disclose Russian attempts to use their platforms to influence the results of their 2016 US presidential race.
Iran and Russia have denied allegations they’ve used social media platforms to establish disinformation campaigns.