Facebook Removes 783 Iranian Accounts for ‘Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior’

Purged accounts spread Iranian state media as well as anti-Semitic cartoons

Last Updated: January 31, 2019 @ 12:37 PM

Facebook has removed nearly 800 accounts stemming from Iran for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the company said in a blog post on Thursday, as part of its continued push to remove misinformation from its platform. Many of the purged accounts shared anti-Semitic cartoons and memes critical of Israel, according to examples shared by Facebook.

Altogether, 783 pages, accounts and groups were removed from Facebook and Instagram. The accounts were taken down not for the content they posted, but for using fake accounts and misrepresenting themselves, Facebook said. These accounts often repurposed Iranian state media and shared it across several different countries, although its primary focus was on the Middle East and South Asia.

“The Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories on current events,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote. “This included commentary that repurposed Iranian state media’s reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.”

At least one of the Facebook pages had 2 million followers. Some of the accounts had been running misinformation campaigns since at least 2010, the company said.

Facebook shared several examples of the content from the fake pages. One post, translated from French, was a post that said: “I do not recognize Israel at all.” Another Instagram post included a blatantly anti-Semitic character:

An Instagram post from one of the 783 accounts removed by Facebook

Facebook has removed thousands of accounts in the last year for inauthentic behavior and spreading misinformation. Many of the removed accounts have also shown close ties to Iran. The company removed hundreds of accounts in August, linked to Iran and Russia, for running a misinformation campaign, including sharing Iranian state media. Another 82 Iranian-tied accounts were booted in October for sharing fake news.