Turns out Russian intelligence agencies aren’t the only ones using Facebook for disinformation campaigns: The social media giant announced Tuesday afternoon that it had been able to identify and remove several hundred pages and accounts associated with Iranian state media.
Separately, the company also removed content associated with Russian intelligence services, as well as a group of accounts associated with Middle East media organizations that acted in concert while pretending to represent independent entities.
Some of the content associated with Iranian state media had been published by Liberty Front Press, a group that claims to be an independent media organization but that the company actually was able to link to Press TV, which is associated with Iranian state media.
Liberty Front Press operated 74 Facebook pages and 70 Facebook accounts, as well as 76 accounts on Instagram. Its pages were followed by 155,000 Facebook accounts, and it held 3 events.
A separate set of accounts associated with Liberty Front Press pretended to operate under the guise of other news organizations. These 66 accounts not only engaged in misinformation, but actually tried to hack the accounts of Facebook users and spread malware over the platform.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg painted these measures as part of the company’s efforts to secure election integrity in a call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “2018 is a very important election year,” he said. “This is really serious, this is a top priority for our company.”
However, the timing of the announcement raised some eyebrows: Facebook announced the account deletions just two hours after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance law violations and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of fraud, making it one of the busiest news days of the summer.