Iran was behind a sprawling disinformation operation on Facebook that targeted hundreds of thousands of people around the world, the social media company said Tuesday night, underscoring Silicon Valley’s increasingly global war on disinformation.
The Iranian effort dated to 2011 & had ties to state media operations in that country, FB said, involving hundreds of accounts on both FB & its sister site, Instagram. The fake Iranian accounts also bought ads on the social media platform & used it to organize events.
FB also deleted some unrelated fake accounts originating in Russia, which has been the main focus of reporting on disinformation operations targeting the U.S. Tuesday night’s revelations were unusual because the disinformation targeted people in many countries – the Middle East, Latin America, the U.K. & the U.S., FB said – & involved a nation-state actor other than Russia.
FB officials said their actions showed that they are moving more aggressively than in 2016, when the company was widely criticized for not more effectively detecting & combating disinformation on its service.
“As I’ve said before, security is not something that you ever fully solve,” FB chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on a call with reporters. “Our adversaries are sophisticated & well-funded but the shift we have made from reactive to proactive detection is a big change & is going to make FB safer over time.”
On the heels of FB’s revelations Tuesday evening, Twitter also said that the company had removed 284 accounts for engaging in “coordinated manipulation.” Twitter said the accounts also appeared to originate from Iran.