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Iran-based social media scheme impersonated press

A network of English-language social media accounts misrepresenting who was behind them was evidently orchestrated to promote Iranian interests, internet security firm FireEye said
A network of English-language social media accounts misrepresenting who was behind them was evidently orchestrated to promote Iranian interests, internet security firm FireEye said AFP
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San Francisco (AFP)

Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday said they shuttered accounts used in an Iran-based social media campaign to sway public opinion by impersonating reporters, politicians and others.

Facebook removed 51 accounts, 36 pages and seven groups at the leading online social network, and another three accounts from Instagram after investigating a tip from internet security firm FireEye, according to head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher.

Twitter told AFP that it removed a network of 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran at the beginning of May, but was not privy to the FireEye findings made public on Tuesday.

"Our investigations into these accounts are ongoing," a Twitter spokeswoman told AFP, declining to discuss details until the analysis was finished.

A network of English-language social media accounts misrepresenting who was behind them was evidently orchestrated to promote Iranian political interests, according to California-based FireEye.

"In addition to utilizing fake American personas that espoused both progressive and conservative political stances, some accounts impersonated real American individuals, including a handful of Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in 2018," FireEye said in a blog post.

Characters in the influence network had material published in US and Israeli media outlets, lobbied journalists to cover certain topics, and appear to have orchestrated interviews in the US and Britain regarding politics, according to FireEye.

It was not clear yet whether this campaign was related to a broader Iran-based social media influence operation uncovered last year, FireEye said.

"The individuals behind this activity, which also took place on other internet platforms and websites, misled people about who they were and what they were doing," Gleicher said.

Frauds claimed to be located in the United States or Europe; used fake accounts to run Pages or Groups, and impersonated legitimate news organizations in the Middle East, according to Facebook.

"The individuals behind this activity also represented themselves as journalists or other personas and tried to contact policymakers, reporters, academics, Iranian dissidents and other public figures," Gleicher said.

Facebook content was posted in English or Arabic. Topics of discussion included public figures, US secessionist movements, Islam, Saudi Arabian influence in the Middle East, and politics in the United States and Britain.

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