Facebook Removes Iranian Network That Was Spreading Disinformation

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said on Friday that it had identified and removed a new influence network that originated in Iran and that was spreading disinformation to people in the United States and Britain.

The company said it took down more than 82 pages, groups and accounts, including 30 Facebook pages, 33 Instagram accounts and three separate Facebook groups. Facebook said it discovered the activity last week and began an investigation. More than one million users in the United States and Britain followed the accounts.

The accounts frequently posted about politically charged topics, such as race relations and political candidates, the company said. Some of the posts also discussed President Trump and race-related protests in the United States. Less than $100 was spent on two separate ads by the person or people behind the network, the company said, and those were paid for in American and Canadian dollars.

“While we have found no ties to the Iranian government at this point, we can’t say for sure who is responsible,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Facebook’s cybersecurity policy, said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.

Facebook said it was working with British and American officials on the discovery, had informed Congress and was working with other technology companies to identify who was behind the behavior.

The removals were the latest example of an influence campaign on Facebook, a type of activity that the company has moved to disclose more quickly as it finds false pages, groups and accounts that are distributing false content. In August, Facebook said it found new influence operations that originated in Iran and Russia. This month, the company said it had identified and taken down 559 pages and 251 accounts run by Americans, many of which amplified false and misleading content in a coordinated fashion.

Several of the accounts identified by Facebook that were removed on Friday had ties to Iranian state media and pushed opinions aligned with pro-government positions, the company said. The company also said some of the accounts that were taken down had links to the influence network uncovered in August, but did not have the same connection to the Iranian state.

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