MASTERCLASSING

Facebook and Twitter purge thousands of accounts for inauthentic activity

Tyrone Stewart

Facebook Twitter appsFacebook and Twitter have both removed hundreds of accounts linked to coordinated operations of influence from Iran, Indonesia, Venezuela, and Russia.

Facebook purged 262 pages, 356 accounts, and three groups on its main platform, as well as 162 accounts on Instagram, all tied to Iran. Meanwhile, it got rid of 207 Facebook pages, 800 Facebook accounts, 546 Facebook groups, and 208 Instagram accounts tied to the Saracen Group, an online syndicate in Indonesia.

In the case of the pages, groups, and accounts from Iran – where some of the activity dates as far back as 2010 – they posed as if they were local actors in nations across Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. These page and account owners posted news stories about current events, including content about Israel, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen. Around 2m accounts followed at least one of these pages and over 254,000 followed as least one of the Instagram accounts. Meanwhile, under

$30,000 was spent on ads on Facebook and Instagram.

“This activity was directed from Iran, in some cases repurposing Iranian state media content, and engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour targeting people across the world, although more heavily in the Middle East and South Asia,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity at Facebook, in a blog post. “These were interconnected and localised operations, which used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.”

The inauthentic activity out of Indonesia by the Saracen Group had approximately 170,000 people following at least one of their Facebook pages and over 65,000 following at least one Instagram account.

“We’re taking down these Pages, groups and accounts based on their behaviour, not the content they were posting,” said Gleicher. “In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

Over at Twitter, it was announced that the microblogging site had deleted thousands of accounts from Iran, Russia, and Venezuela for their attempts to target the US midterm elections in November. According to the company, most were suspended before election day.

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