By Peter Hasson
Facebook on Friday deleted 82 pages, groups and accounts that it determined were part of an online influence operation located in Iran.
The Iranians operated 30 Facebook pages, 33 individual accounts, and three groups, as well as 16 accounts on Facebook-owned Instagram, Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a statement Friday.
The pages had over a combined 1 million followers and the groups had more than 25,000 members, Gleicher said.
Facebook provided several examples of the Iranian propaganda, which promoted former National Football League (NFL) quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s activism while criticizing President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“The Page administrators and account owners typically represented themselves as US citizens, or in a few cases UK citizens — and they posted about politically charged topics such as race relations, opposition to the President, and immigration. Despite attempts to hide their true identities, a manual review of these accounts linked their activity to Iran,” Gleicher said.
An investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation in August found Iranian nationals impersonating Americans online to stoke fear about Indian immigrants, as part of a lobbying campaign meant to defeat changes in U.S. green card policy. (RELATED: Iranians Posing As Anti-Immigrant Americans Online)
Later that month, Facebook identified 652 pages, groups and accounts engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” much like the accounts Facebook removed on Friday.
Those accounts were caught heavily promoting Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders — a likely 2020 presidential candidate — and disparaging Trump and the state of Israel.
Facebook identified “some overlap” between the pages it removed in August and the ones targeted in Friday’s purge, Gleicher said.
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