Facebook Inc has deleted accounts originating in Iran which featured posts on “politically divisive” topics that had attracted more than 1 million followers in Britain and the United States.
In an effort to combat disinformation activity on its platform, the social network site on October 26 said it has deleted 82 accounts and pages on Facebook and Instagram that were “fake” and focused on “politically charged” subjects including race relations, immigration controversy, U.S. President Donald Trump, etc. which it believed were targeted at “sowing discord” ahead of U.S. congressional elections on November 6.
According to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a think tank that works with Facebook to study propaganda online, the deleted accounts mostly targeted U.S. liberals.
While the accounts originated in Iran, Facebook said it was unclear as so far it had found no ties with the Tehran government. The admins controlling these accounts tried to pass off their identities as British or American, violating the policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior.
Facebook said the deleted accounts had garnered more than 1 million followers, which amplified the reach of their posts at less than $100 in terms of advertising cost on Facebook and Instagram in the last few years.
It spotted the coordinated activity among different accounts only a week ago, Facebook said, and moved quickly to stop it, given the looming U.S. elections.
Following the actions were taken by the firm in August in which it had removed hundreds of “misleading” pages and groups with links to Iran and Russia, the recent batch of Iranian propaganda had slightly mixed messages with varied context to anti-Israel and anti-Saudi Arabia commentary. Saudi Arabia and Israel are both asserted enemies of Iran.
“These accounts masqueraded primarily as American liberals, posting only small amounts of anti-Saudi and anti-Israeli content interspersed within large volumes of divisive political content such as race relations, police brutality, and U.S. President Donald Trump,” the Atlantic Council said in an online post.
Iran has not yet responded to these latest accusations. Tehran had previously denied allegations that it uses social media for disinformation campaigns and propaganda.
Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told that the latest setup uncovered by Facebook was more sophisticated than past instances, making it more difficult to identify.
Social-media companies have been constantly trying to target foreign interference on their platforms after coming under attacks of criticism that they did not do enough to detect and disclose Russian efforts to misuse their platforms and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
In an effort to curb such intervention, Facebook has set up a “war room” at its California headquarters ahead of the U.S. elections, as well as a presidential election in Brazil on October 28, which is staffed with more than 20,000 workers assigned to weed out fake accounts set up to distribute false information.