Iranian network of fake accounts removed from Facebook

Fake accounts operated out of Iran aimed at American users

A Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
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Facebook announced on Wednesday that it had removed three separate networks of fake accounts that were being used to spread manipulative and false information.

The networks were run out of Iran, Russia, and Myanmar and Vietnam. Two of the online networks aimed at countries with which they are embroiled in tension.

The Iranian network's activities were focused primarily on an American audience and the Russian network targeted Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

The network run out of Myanmar and Vietnam was focused on users in Myanmar.

Facebook confirmed they identified and removed a small network run out of Iran that was comprised of six Facebook accounts and five Instagram accounts.

The fraudulent accounts co-ordinated to run "foreign interference" on an American audience, typically posting in Facebook Groups, commenting on content, or even attempting to contact public figures.

The inauthentic accounts primarily posted about “US elections, Christianity, US-Iran relations, US immigration policy, criticism of US policies in the Middle East and public figures, as well as video interviews with academics, public figures and columnists on issues related to Iran and US elections", Facebook said.

The discovery was made as part of Facebook’s active internal investigation into suspected Iran-linked disinformation campaigns.

In January 2019, the social media giant removed a spate of fake accounts tied to Iran that were being used to post about topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, specifically mentioning the role of the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The second network Facebook discovered and shut down was run out of Russia and comprised of more than 100 fake accounts that violated Facebook's terms of service.

The activity of these fake accounts reached beyond the realm of social media, with some falsely posing as local citizen journalists and trying to contact policymakers, journalists and other public figures.

The accounts also posted about Russian engagement in Syria, Crimea and Ukraine.

The third network run out Myanmar and Vietnam was found by Facebook to be associated with telecom providers Mytel in Myanmar and Viettel in Vietnam.

The fake accounts co-ordinated to manage Facebook Pages that posed as news centres for telecoms consumers, yet they mostly posted negative news about alleged telecom business failures and fraudulent activity against customers.

Simultaneously, other fake accounts in the network purported to be customers of Myanmar telecom providers and posted critical commentary disparaging the providers.