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Facebook Removes Accounts In Russia, Iran With Alleged Intelligence Links

Social-media giant Facebook on February 12 removed two unconnected networks of accounts, pages, and groups “engaging in foreign or government interference,” one originating in Russia and the other one in Iran, both of which have alleged ties to intelligence services.

Calling the behavior “coordinated” and “inauthentic,” Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said both operations were acting on “behalf of a government or foreign actor.”

The Russian network primarily targeted Ukraine and its neighboring countries, while the Iranian operation focused mainly on the United States.

The people behind the groups and accounts “coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action,” the social-media company said.

In total, 78 accounts, 11 pages, 29 groups, and four Instagram accounts originating in Russia were removed.

Facebook’s investigation “found links to Russian and military intelligence services” within the Russian network.

The people behind the network would pose as citizen journalists and tried to contact policymakers, journalists, and other public figures in the region.

They would post content in Russian, English, and Ukrainian “about local and political news including public figures in Ukraine, Russian military engagement in Syria, alleged SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) leaks related to ethnic tensions in Crimea and the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine in 2014.”

Similarly, six Facebook and five Instagram accounts were removed originating in Iran that engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Some tried contacting public figures and they shared posts on such topics as the U.S. elections, Christianity, U.S.-Iran relations, U.S. immigration policy, and criticism of U.S. policies in the Middle East.

About 60 people had followed one or more of the Iran-based Instagram accounts, the media company said.