Iran's fake-news push was much bigger than Facebook, and spread to Twitter and Google

  • An online Iranian misinformation campaign targeting people in the US, UK, Latin America, and the Middle East was much bigger than previously thought.
  • A report from cybersecurity firm FireEye revealed fake accounts and information on Google+ and YouTube.
  • Twitter also revealed it had suspended 284 accounts for “coordinated manipulation” stemming from Iran.
  • The news comes a day after Facebook shut down 652 pages related to coordinated Iranian misinformation, also thanks to a tip from FireEye.

It looks as if an online campaign of misinformation from Iran was much bigger than originally thought.

Twitter announced it had suspended 284 accounts for “coordinated manipulation,” shortly after Facebook announced it had removed 652 pages for the same reason.

The suspensions apparently came after a report from the cybersecurity firm FireEye, which was credited with tipping off Facebook about the coordinated Iranian influence operation.

According to FireEye’s report, viewed by Business Insider, the misinformation campaign involved a network of news sites and accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube.

Example publications were “US Journal” and “Critics Chronicle,” which purported to be independent news sites based in California and Birmingham, England, respectively.

In addition to the fake-news sites, the report identified Twitter accounts posing as individuals living in the US and UK. Some of these accounts used photographs appropriated from online sources, including photos of people found in student and employee biographies.

The report also identified Google+ and YouTube accounts used by the Liberty Front Press.

FireEye analyst Lee Foster said in a statement that the operation aimed to “promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests, including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes.” Anti-Trump material was also prevalent, according to the report.

FireEye added that the activity was most likely not intended to influence the upcoming US midterm elections, unlike the Russian hacking attempts uncovered by Microsoft earlier this week.

Business Insider has contacted Twitter and Google for comment.

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