Facebook acted on these accounts after FireEye, a global cybersecurity firm, gave it information in July about "Liberty Front Press", a network of Facebook Pages as well as accounts on other online services. Per the New York Times, Facebook said the activity (some stretching back to 2011) originated out of Iran and Russian Federation, and that the disinformation this time went after marks in the UK, Latin America, and the Middle East, in addition to United States targets.
FireEye said the Facebook content was promoting Iranian political interests with anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian themes and advocating for USA policies favorable to Iran.
"Today we removed more than 650 Pages, groups, and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram", Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page. Facebook says it spotted these in August 2017 but expanded its search in July 2018 as part of its focus on influence campaigns ahead of the USA 2018 midterm elections.
While inauthentic content operations are, at least in the popular mind, associated with right-wing content, it's not the case in the Liberty Front Press/Instituto Manquehue operation.
Hundreds of thousands of people followed one or more of the Facebook pages implicated in the campaign, Facebook said.
On the heels of Facebook's revelations Tuesday evening, Twitter also said that the company had removed 284 accounts for engaging in "coordinated manipulation".
An investigation found the network was linked to Iranian state media and one component, Quest 4 Truth, had ties with Press TV, an English-language news network affiliated with Iranian state media, Facebook said.
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On Tuesday, Facebook announced it had shut down a slew of fake accounts and pages that appear to be tied to two groups: Russian military intelligence and Iranian state media. The company said it's still not comfortable linking that campaign to any country, saying the identities of the coordinators were more expertly masked. Facebook began an investigation, which identified additional related pages and accounts with a link to Iranian state media.
Facebook said it will work to bolster safeguards so that it doesn't take in advertising revenue from Iran, which is under USA sanctions.
FireEye called the Liberty Front Press group an influence operation apparently aimed at promoting Iranian political interests "including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes" and support for the U.S. -Iran nuclear deal.
Facebook said the campaign was more sophisticated than the type of meddling it saw during the 2016 presidential election, when the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency purchased ads on the platform that ultimately reached as many as 126 million users.
"Based on our existing analysis, it appears many of these accounts originated from Iran", the statement said.It noted that the Iranian media increased posting contents about Britain and the US from 2017.
Facebook said it removed 254 pages and 392 accounts across its flagship platform as well as its Instagram service. There was also significant anti-Trump messaging and the creation of sock puppet accounts masquerading as liberal Americans.