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Facebook, Twitter, shut down fake accounts originating from Iran

Social media giants Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. shut down scores of accounts, pages and groups involved in inauthentic behavior and misrepresentation originating from Iran.

In a May 28 blog post, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said the company removed 51 accounts, 36 pages, seven groups and three Instagram accounts originating from the Middle Eastern country.

Those involved in the illegal activity represented themselves as located in the U.S. and Europe and used fake accounts to run pages and groups. The posts from these pages and accounts discussed topics such as public figures and politics in the U.S. and the U.K., U.S. secessionist movements, Islam, Arab minorities in Iran and the influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, according to the blog post.

Facebook added that about 21,000 accounts followed one or more of these pages, while about 1,900 accounts joined one or more groups. About 2,600 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.

Meanwhile, Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter, tweeted that the company removed over 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran. In a chain of tweets, Roth added that several of the accounts falsely represented themselves as U.S.-based media outlets such as the New York Daily News, Newsday and The Seattle Times.

Both Facebook and Twitter identified the activity and removed the accounts after they received a tip by cybersecurity firm FireEye.

FireEye said May 28 that most of the accounts were created between April 2018 and March 2019. The accounts promoted anti-Saudi, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian themes. Some of the Twitter accounts also impersonated Republican political candidates who ran for seats in the House of Representatives in the 2018 U.S. congressional midterms.