Facebook and Twitter both announced on Thursday they had taken down hundreds of accounts believed to have been part of coordinated influence operations from Iran, Russia and Venezuela.
Facebook removed 783 pages, groups and accounts that it said posed as local actors in countries across Europe, the Middle East and south Asia and shared content that was largely repurposed from Iranian state media. The accounts, some of which had been active since 2010, had garnered about 2 million followers on Facebook and more than 250,000 followers on Instagram.
While Facebook demurred from ascribing a motive to the operation, researchers with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab who analyzed the accounts said that it appeared designed to amplify views “in line with Iranian government’s international stances”.
“The pages posted content with strong bias for the government in Tehran and against the ‘West’ and regional neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel,” the researchers wrote in a blog post.
Several of the accounts focused on sharing pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli content, in French, English, Spanish and Hebrew. Many advanced pro-Iran, anti-Saudi Arabia messages to a largely Middle Eastern, Arabic-speaking audience. One targeted an English-language audience and posted 9/11 conspiracy theories.
More than 30% of the removed accounts had been active for at least five years, the researchers said.