Facebook, Twitter delete accounts peddling fake news

25 August, 2018, 00:36 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Facebook Takes Down Political Influence Campaigns Operating in Russia, Iran Before Midterms

The Facebook action was prompted by research from cybersecurity firm FireEye regarding a collection of "Liberty Front Press" pages on the social network and other online services.

FireEye said the Iranian campaign used a network of fake news websites and fraudulent social media personas spread across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube, to push narratives in line with Tehran's interests. Most of the accounts and pages associated with the organization shared content about Middle East politics.

These coordinated misinformation campaigns sought to influence people across the globe, from the Middle East to Latin America to the United Kingdom and the U.S. It demonstrates how malicious actors continue to look to Facebook as a platform to spread political propaganda or sew discord.

The first campaign involved a network of Facebook pages and accounts on other platforms under the banner "Liberty Front Press" that positioned themselves as independent but were discovered to have ties to Iranian state media.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was able to identify this damaging content because of its heavy investments in improving safety, security and privacy on the platform ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S. It's also working to foster greater cooperation with law-enforcement and governments, to aid in the crackdown. Both entities acted independently of each other, but used the same tactics, which revolved around trying to mislead Facebook users into "who they were and what they were doing", the company said.

After Facebook investigated those pages, it said it linked them back to Iranian state media using their website registration information and Internet Protocol addresses.

Also Tuesday, Twitter said it had taken down 284 accounts for "coordinated manipulation" appearing to originate in Iran.

"The activity we have uncovered is significant, and demonstrates that actors beyond Russian Federation continue to engage in and experiment with online, social media-driven influence operations to shape political discourse", FireEye said in its account.

Facebook has taken down 652 pages, accounts and groups it identified as part of a coordinated disinformation campaign targeting countries around the world, originating in Iran.

Facebook has identified and banned hundreds of accounts, groups and pages engaged in misleading political behavior, a far larger discovery than a "sophisticated" effort it reported three weeks ago with great fanfare.

Postings cited by FireEye expressed praise for US politicians and other Twitter users who criticized the Trump administration's decision in May to abandon the Iranian nuclear pact, under which Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the loosening of sanctions. The operations "extend well beyond USA audiences and US politics", FireEye said in a preliminary report.

The actions by Facebook and Twitter come days after Microsoft said it seized websites linked to Russian intelligence that sought to meddle in United States political debate. By contrast, the latest group of apparently fake accounts appeared more intent on influencing USA foreign policy and regional politics in the Middle East. These included some of the same bad actors removed before the 2016 USA election, but the focus of their recent activity was spreading pro-Russia messaging relating to Syria and Ukraine. Facebook also noticed links between the media organization's activities to another set of fake accounts and pages that were engaging in traditional cybersecurity attacks, such as account hacking.

The third campaign was made up of 168 Pages and 140 accounts on Facebook, as well as 31 on Instagram.



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