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August 23, 2018 6:58 am

Facebook Faces Down Iran’s Disinformation Campaign

avatar by Jackson Richman / JNS.org

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3D-printed Facebook and Twitter logos are seen in this picture illustration made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 26, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo.

JNS.org – Joining Russia and other American adversaries, Iran has been behind a worldwide disinformation operation over the past several years, the social media giant Facebook said on Tuesday.

The Islamic Republic targeted hundreds of thousands of people, including in the United States, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and Latin America.

“As I’ve said before, security is not something that you ever fully solve,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a call with reporters. “Our adversaries are sophisticated and well-funded, but the shift we have made from reactive to proactive detection is a big change and is going to make Facebook safer over time.”

The social-media giant said that Iran’s disinformation campaign has consisted of some now-removed accounts on Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns. These accounts purchased advertisements on Facebook to promote events.

Facebook traced the groups through various forensic means, including “searching publicly available website registration information, and tracking IP addresses and Facebook pages sharing the same administrators,” according to The Washington Post.

The Islamic regime’s cyber mission also included YouTube and Twitter, with the two companies deleting some of those accounts. Before Facebook’s announcement, the latter said that it had removed 284 Iran-manufactured accounts, while the former had deleted at least one account created by the regime, according to its parent company Google.

Facebook said that it has worked with law enforcement officials in the United States and Britain on the matter. It also briefed both the Treasury Department and the State Department.

“I’ve been saying for months that there’s no way the problem of social-media manipulation is limited to a single troll farm in St. Petersburg, and that fact is now beyond a doubt,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-Va.), according to the Post.

A third party, which Facebook did not identify, had been posting in Arabic and Farsi about Mideast politics. The content has been deemed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian, and anti-Saudi Arabia, in addition to supporting American policies favorable to Iran. One of these policies was the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, according to a blog post by FireEye, a company that provides services and products to prevent cyber threats.

The FireEye post stated it had identified Twitter accounts affiliated with Facebook pages that were linked to phone numbers with the +98 Iranian country code. Additionally, FireEye observed “inauthentic social-media personas, masquerading as American liberals supportive of Bernie Sanders, heavily promoting Quds [Jerusalem] Day, a holiday established by Iran in 1979 to express support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel.”

Jackson Richman is the Washington correspondent for JNS.org.

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