Facebook removes thousands of fake accounts from Russia, Iran

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Facebook announced a massive cleanup on Tuesday, revealing that it has removed 2,632 pages, groups and accounts from Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo, in what it has described as acting in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

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In a blog post, the social media giant said it has removed the content from both Facebook and Instagram after an investigation found the operations were connected to the countries listed above.

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“We didn’t find any links between these sets of activities, but they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook said.

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Of the 2,632 accounts, 513 were tied to Iran, while 1,907 were linked to Russia, Facebook added.

For the Iran accounts, Facebook said page administrators and account owners represented themselves as locals and made-up media entities, often using fake accounts and impersonated real political groups and media organizations.

“They posted news stories on current events and frequently repurposed and amplified content from Iranian state media about topics including sanctions against Iran; tensions between India and Pakistan; conflicts in Syria and Yemen; terrorism; tensions between Israel and Palestine; Islamic religious issues; Indian politics; and the recent crisis in Venezuela,” Facebook found during its investigation.

As for Russia, Facebook said it only found a “small portion” of the 1,907 accounts engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. Many of the individuals behind the fraudulent activities used fake accounts to primarily post spam content and content related to Ukrainian news and politics.

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Facebook said it has shared its findings with U.S. law enforcement and while it is making progress in tackling these fake accounts, “it’s an ongoing challenge.”

“The people responsible are determined and well-funded,” Gleicher added. “We constantly have to improve to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies. Their collaboration was critical to these investigations."

The news comes less than week after it revealed its employees had access to hundreds of millions of user passwords over the past few years. In another blog post, Facebook said the passwords were stored in a readable format on internal systems. The company said it has since fixed the issue.