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Facebook kills 650+ accounts ‘linked to Iran, Russia’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Photo by AFP)

American social media giant Facebook has targeted hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia under the pretext of fighting what it calls “misinformation” campaigns.

“Today we removed multiple Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. Some of this activity originated in Iran, and some originated in Russia,” the California-based company announced in a post on Tuesday.

The targets were identified as “networks of accounts misleading people about what they were doing,” Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday, AFP reported.

Among the accounts was one belonging to the Quest 4 Truth (Q4T) Iranian media organization, which promotes Islamic values.

Facebook further wrote in bold text, “We’ve removed Pages, groups and accounts that can be linked to sources the US government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services. This is unrelated to the activities we found in Iran."

Russia faces allegations of involvement in the 2016 US presidential elections in favor of now President Donald Trump. Moscow strongly rejects the claims.

The Facebook investigation was prompted by a tip-off from cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Reuters quoted FireEye as saying that the Iranian activity included “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes” and advocacy of policies favorable to Iran such as the 2015 nuclear deal, to which the US was a party before pulling out in May in defiance of the international community.

“It really shows it’s not just Russia that engages in this type of activity,” Lee Foster, an information operations analyst with FireEye, told Reuters.

Facebook said it had worked closely with law enforcement in both the US and the UK on the investigation, and had briefed the US Treasury Department and State Department as Washington has imposed sanctions on Tehran.

In a simultaneous move, Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) also acted on FireEye’s claims and removed hundreds of accounts said to be tied to Iranian “actors,” which are said to be promoting Iran’s geopolitical agenda.

Iranian and Russian officials have not yet commented on the reports.

Microsoft had also claimed on Monday that hackers linked to the Russian government sought to steal email login credentials from American politicians and think tanks ahead of the upcoming congressional elections in the US.

Earlier this year, Facebook was itself hit by an election-related scandal after it was revealed the data of up to 87 million of its users had been improperly shared with the political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Trump in 2016 to predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.

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