Facebook removes Iranian influence campaign as midterms near
Facebook took down 82 pages, accounts and groups it said are part of an influence campaign originating in Iran, the company announced in a blog post Friday. The accounts were posing as residents of the US and the UK and posting content about race relations, immigration and opposition to President Donald Trump.
“This content appeared consistent with what we’ve seen in other major operations, which is it was targeting broad division,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy during a conference call on Friday.
Understanding exactly what these bad actors were after is “always a little tricky,” Gleicher said, and the tech firm isn’t in the position to assess their motivation.
The removed pages, which were titled “Wake up America,” “Thirst for Truth” and “no racism no war,” also latched onto current events. One sample provided by Facebook displayed a cartoon of the controversial hearing of Brett Kavanaugh who was nominated to the US Supreme Court. Another removed account posted that President Donald Trump was “the worst, most hated president in American History!”
Facebook first learned about the Iranian-linked accounts about a week ago, but the tech firm hasn’t found any ties to the Iranian government.
“We can’t say for sure who is responsible,” Gleicher said.
It’s the latest in a series of account takedowns Facebook has announced. Facebook says the accounts are participating in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which the company said misleads users and is not allowed on the platform. The tech firm said that they found some ties to the Iranian accounts and ads it removed in August. Gleicher emphasized that Facebook was looking the behavior of the account not the content when deciding whether to pull them down.
About 1.02 million accounts followed at least one of the Iranian-linked pages, Facebook said.
First published Oct. 26 at 9:51 a.m. PT.
Update at 10:41 a.m. PT: Included remarks from Facebook’s conference call and more background.