Facebook removes accounts tied to Iran

Facebook said Friday it shut down 82 accounts, pages and groups exhibiting “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that originated in Iran.

The social media platform, which established a “war room” to monitor posts before the midterm elections, said a manual review by its team linked the accounts to Iran and discovered some overlap with Iran-linked accounts removed in August. The administrators and owners of the accounts shut down on Friday pretended to be U.S. or U.K. citizens.

The pages and accounts posted about politically charged topics, such as race relations, immigration and opposition to President Trump, according to Facebook. Sample posts provided by Facebook show anti-Trump and pro-Colin Kaepernick messages.

Facebook first detected the suspect activity one week ago.

“Given the elections, we took action as soon as we’d completed our initial investigation and shared the information with U.S. and U.K. government officials, U.S. law enforcement, Congress, other technology companies and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post. “However, it’s still early days and while we have found no ties to the Iranian government, we can’t say for sure who is responsible.”

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Facebook said it linked Iranian activity to 30 pages, 33 Facebook accounts, three Facebook groups and 16 Instagram accounts. They hosted seven events, and about 1.02 million accounts followed at least one of the pages, the company noted. The accounts spent less than $100 on advertising.

Facebook has come under scrutiny since discovering that accounts linked to Russia sought to spread misinformation on the platform leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The company has removed hundreds of fake accounts, and it has said it will review content on its platform to stop potential foreign influence related to the midterm elections.