Facebook says it removed influence campaigns from Iran, Russia

A Facebook page

Cybersecurity company FireEye informed Facebook of the "Liberty Front Press" network of pages last month.

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.

"Some of them attempted to hide their location, and they primarily posted political content focused on the Middle East, as well as the UK, US, and Latin America", Facebook said. The first accounts were created in 2013 and posted political content about the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and the US, although the focus on the West increased starting previous year, Facebook said.

Facebook said it's working with other tech companies, academic researchers, and law enforcement when dealing with cyber threats.

The announcements come after Microsoft said it had taken control of websites it said were trying to hack into conservative American think tanks and the U.S. Senate.

One, dubbed "Liberty Front Press", was linked to Press TV, an Iranian state broadcaster.

On Tuesday afternoon Facebook released yet another detailed look at an elaborate political influence campaign taking advantage of its platform.

Twitter also announced Tuesday it has shut down almost 300 of its own bad actors tied to "coordinated manipulation" that originated in Iran.

The social media giant said Tuesday evening that the new campaigns originated in Iran and Russian Federation.

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Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the accounts identified on his company's platform were part of two separate campaigns, the first from Iran with some ties to state-owned media, the second linked to sources that Washington has previously named as Russian military intelligence services. They collectively hosted 25 events and about 813,000 Facebook users followed at least one of the pages.

Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc collectively removed hundreds of accounts tied to Iranian actors that a cybersecurity firm said on Tuesday were promoting Iran's geopolitical agenda around the world.

Facebook also deleted some unrelated fake accounts originating in Russian Federation, which has been the main focus of reporting on disinformation operations targeting the United States.

Already the tool has helped locate political ads that were actually scams and malware, political ads that were ignore federal election rules by not disclosing who funded them, and uncovered a fake Facebook page claiming to belong to Special Counsel Robert Mueller with more than 100,000 followers. "Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran".

FireEye said in a statement that Iran's activity did not appear specifically targeted toward the 2018 midterm elections.

Facebook said it is working closely with the USA government on ongoing investigations to target further "coordinated inauthentic behavior" on its platforms.

The accounts and pages typically posed as news or other organizations which shared information in multiple countries without revealing their true identity. There was also significant anti-Trump messaging and the creation of sock puppet accounts masquerading as liberal Americans. According to Facebook, it probably hasn't.

The activities were not relegated to just Facebook and included Instagram and Twitter, according to Facebook and FireEye.

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