Business Technology

Sunday 18 August 2019

Iran named in Facebook fight to stop spread of fake news

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

Sarah Frier

Facebook has for the first time named a country other than Russia that has been using fake accounts to manipulate global politics: Iran.

The social network said it removed 652 pages, groups and accounts for "inauthentic behaviour" that originated in Iran and targeted people with news and information including political content in the US, UK, Middle East and Latin America. In addition, an undisclosed number of pages, groups and accounts linked to sources the US government previously identified as Russian military intelligence services also were removed, the company said.

The effort to manipulate social-media users also occurred on Twitter, which followed Facebook's announcement by saying it had removed 284 accounts, including many that originated from Iran.

"Security is not something that you ever fully solve," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. "The shift we made from reactive to proactive detection is a big change, and it's going to make Facebook safer for everyone over time."

The disclosure, the second in a month, underscored the persistence of efforts to spread misinformation and discord leading up to the US midterm elections in November.

Facebook has been working to safeguard global elections from foreign interference since it discovered, months after Donald Trump's 2016 election as US president, that Russia had been waging a campaign to influence voters, reaching about 150 million users in the process.

Facebook has hired more content moderators and security experts and said it acted on tips from the US government and the security firm FireEye to remove campaigns

The narratives pitched included anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific US policies favourable to Iran such as the US-Iran nuclear deal, FireEye said. (Bloomberg)

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