Facebook and Twitter have taken action against thousands of fake accounts and pages thought to be linked to Iran, Venezuela and Russia in the latest crackdown on political manipulation across social media.
Facebook said it had removed a total of 783 pages, groups and accounts “engaging in co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour tied to Iran” using re-purposed news stories from Iranian state media, about topics such as Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The bad actors misrepresented themselves as originating from other countries, but were traced back to Iran. They targeted people across the world, but were more prominent in the Middle East and South Asia.
“We’re taking down these Pages, groups and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they post,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook.
“In this case, the people behind this activity co-ordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”
The latest purge of inauthentic behaviour includes 262 Pages, 356 accounts, and three groups on Facebook, as well as 162 accounts on Instagram. At least one of the pages was followed by around two million accounts.
Twitter also announced it had taken action against thousands of malicious accounts in the run up to the US midterm elections in November.
“As part of our ongoing review we found limited operations that have the potential to be connected to sources within Iran, Venezuela, and Russia,” said Carlos Monje Jr, Twitter’s director of public policy.
These included two sets of accounts thought to be linked to Venezuela – one affecting 1196 accounts and another with 764 accounts – as well as 518 Russian accounts and 2617 Iranian accounts.
“The majority of these accounts were proactively suspended in advance of election day due to the increasingly robust nature of our technology and internal tooling for identifying platform manipulation,” Mr Monje Jr added.