Facebook and FireEye Detect More Foreign Interference with US Midterms

Saturday, 25 Aug, 2018

The Facebook logo is reflected on a woman's glasses in this photo illustration taken June 3, 2018. Unlike past influence operations on the social network, which largely targeted Americans, the fake accounts, pages and groups were this time also aimed at people in Latin America, Britain and the Middle East, the company said.

In the case of Twitter, the firm announced on Tuesday it had also suspended 284 accounts involved in similar manipulation tactics. The company said that these "bad actors" focused on politics in Syria and Ukraine and were "spreading pro-Russian and pro-Assad content". Facebook officials said they had found no evidence that these pages were targeting the USA and declined to say whether there was evidence the groups were attempting to influence upcoming US midterm elections.

Facebook last month removed 32 pages and accounts tied to another misinformation campaign without describing its origins, but which US lawmakers said likely had Russian involvement.

Facebook said the 652 pages and accounts originated in Iran, and that they had been flagged for "coordinated inauthentic behavior". The third part uncovered accounts and pages that mostly shared content about Middle East politics as well as politics in the United Kingdom and U.S.

Facebook began investigating the activities of Liberty Front Press last month on a tip from the cybersecurity firm FireEye, which has also been trying to determine who might be behind the mysterious media group.

Facebook has closed down more than 600 accounts and pages due to malicious activity it has linked to the Russian military and Iran in yet more instances of foreign actors infiltrating the social network to spread propaganda.

A third set of accounts uncovered were first created in 2011 and focused on Middle East politics. Facebook said the group, which had about 155,000 followers and had spent US$6,000 on Facebook ads, was linked to Press TV, an Iranian state-owned English language news network.

Facebook has removed hundreds of pages, groups, and accounts originating in Iran that were part of influence campaigns targeting multiple countries including the United States, the company announced on August 21.

Facebook also deleted some unrelated fake accounts originating in Russian Federation, which has been the main focus of reporting on disinformation operations targeting the United States.

In Moscow, a government spokesman denied any manipulation campaign, telling journalists that "we don't understand what the basis is" for the accusations.

[Image: courtesy of Facebook]"Broadly speaking, the intent behind this activity appears to be to promote Iranian political interests, including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as to promote support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the U.S. -Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA)", according to a FireEye blog post.

Senator Mark Warner said the latest revelations were "further evidence that foreign adversaries are actively using social media to divide Americans and undermine our democratic institutions". Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to testify at a September 5 hearing in the Senate focused on foreign interference in US politics and social media.

"So this is really serious". "This is a top priority for our company".

In a company blog, Facebook said it removed more than 652 pages of "coordinated inauthentic behaviour", with some activity originating from Russian Federation and some from Iran.

The accounts and pages were divided between four separate campaigns, three of which originated in Iran, of "coordinated inauthentic behaviour", disclosed by the social network today.