Last August, researchers from the threat intelligence firm FireEye uncovered a vast social media influence campaign, conducted by a network of inauthentic news outlets and fake personas with ties to Iran. Their findings were a stark reminder that these kinds of tactics aren’t limited to Russia. Now FireEye has published a sequel of sorts, documenting the evolving methods of disinformation actors are using across social media platforms and other outlets to promote Iranian interests online. And platforms are still racing to keep pace: On Tuesday, Facebook announced a takedown of 51 Facebook accounts, 36 Facebook pages, seven Facebook groups and three Instagram accounts that it says were all involved in coordinated “inauthentic behavior.” Facebook says the activity originated geographically from Iran.
Facebook says its actions stemmed in part from FireEye’s investigation as well as its own ongoing metadata analyses and behavioral tracking. The company has done other Iran-linked takedowns in recent months. The network removed Tuesday was not as large as some of those, according to the company: about 21,000 users followed one or more of the Facebook pages; 1,900 joined one or more of the groups; and about 2,600 people followed at least one of the three Instagram accounts.