Facebook removes dozens of anti-Israel fake accounts from Iran

Accounts "typically posted about local political news and geopolitics including topics like public figures in the U.S., politics in the U.S. and Israel, support of Palestine and conflict in Yemen."

A photo illustration shows the applications Facebook and Instagram on the screen of an iPhone (photo credit: ANTONIO BRONIC/ REUTERS)
A photo illustration shows the applications Facebook and Instagram on the screen of an iPhone
Facebook announced Monday that they removed dozens of Iran-originated accounts for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” many of which seemed to be characterized by an anti-Israel agenda.
The social media giant describes such behavior as groups of pages or people misleading users about who they are and what they are doing, for example, presenting themselves as operating from a different country than the one they are actually originated from.
“Today, we removed 93 Facebook accounts, 17 Pages and four Instagram accounts for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the company said in a statement. “This activity originated in Iran and focused primarily on the US, and some on French-speaking audiences in North Africa.”
Facebook added that they shared the information gathered with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners.
The pages and accounts removed frequently posted about topics such as “politics in the US and Israel” and “support of Palestine.”
One of the screenshots shared by Facebook depicted a page called “Israel deceits and lies” and a post stating that “what Israel does to Palestinians is the textbook definition of terrorism,” while sharing a tweet reading “the IDF openly admits it is now targeting populated civilian areas in Gaza.”
Dozens of other Iran-originated pages and accounts which were uncovered and removed targeted Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
The accounts, whose administrators presented themselves as locals, often posed as news organizations.
“They frequently repurposed Iranian state media stories on topics like Hezbollah, conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, tensions between Israel and Palestine and Iran and the US, war in Yemen, as well as posted content tailored for a particular country including domestic news, geopolitics and public figures,” said Facebook’s statement.
A few more Iranian-originated accounts and pages, and another 51 Russia-originated accounts only focused on the US.
The Russian network “showed some links” to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), Facebook said, an organization Washington has said was used by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 US election.
“We see this operation targeting largely US public debate and engaging in the sort of political issues that are challenging and sometimes divisive in the US right now,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told Reuters. “Whenever you do that, a piece of what you engage on are topics that are going to matter for the election. But I can’t say exactly what their goal was.”
The accounts and pages that were taken down had dozens of thousands of followers altogether.
Last year, Facebook already conducted a massive operation against Iran and Russia-originated accounts engaging in inauthentic behavior, after being tipped by a cybersecurity firm about a network called “Liberty Front Press,” which they described as an “influence operation masquerading as liberal US activists — and apparently aimed at promoting Iranian political interests,” according to The Washington Post.
Facebook added that the work to fight this kind of accounts and pages is still in progress.
“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge,” the statement said. “We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working closer with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.”