Sunday, 25 August, 2019

Iran-Linked Group Posed as GOP Candidates on Social Media

Children wave Iranian flags during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution at the Azadi Freedom Square in Tehran Iran Monday Feb. 11 2019. Hundreds of thousands of people poured out onto the streets of Tehran and other Facebook deletes fake accounts used in pro-Iranian influence campaign
Patty Aguilar | 30 May, 2019, 23:12

Most of these accounts were suspended on or around May 9, the report said.

Twitter said its investigation is ongoing, but since the beginning of May it has already removed 2,800 inauthentic accounts thought to have originated in Iran.

Facebook said that it took down 51 Facebook pages, seven Facebook groups and three Instagram accounts that were all involved in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that originated geographically from Iran.

"We're constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people", said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity. In comparison, Twitter took issues with FireEye stating that the firm "has issued a report and chosen not to share information or insights with Twitter prior to publication, which is outside standard, responsible industry norms".

"One persona, 'John Turner, ' maintained a blog on The Times of Israel website from January 2017 to November 2018, and wrote articles for the US-based site Natural News Blogs from August 2015 to July 2018", FireEye said."The letters and articles primarily addressed themes or promoted stances in line with Iranian political interests, similar to the activity conducted on social media". The posts from these Pages and accounts discussed topics like public figures and politics in the US and the UK, US secessionist movements, Islam, Arab minorities in Iran and the influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

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

About 21,000 accounts followed one or more of the Facebook pages, while about 1,900 accounts joined one or more of the groups and around 2,600 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts, according to Gleicher.

The influence campaign identified by FireEye went beyond social media.

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Accounts expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- the deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Some of these accounts reportedly attempted to impersonate 2018 Republican congressional candidates.

The pages were part of a drive to promote Iranian interests in various countries by creating fake identities pretending to be residents of those nations, Mr Gleicher said at the time.

They also opposed the Trump administration's designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation, the cybersecurity firm said.

Late past year, Facebook took down accounts linked to an Iranian effort to influence US and British politics with messages about charged topics such as immigration and race relations.

A propaganda effort possibly out of Iran has been using Facebook and Twitter to impersonate real Americans, including a handful of United States congressional candidates, according to new research.

Butler could not be immediately reached for comment.

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