Facebook and YouTube cracked down last week on an Iranian and Russian misinformation efforts last week as social media companies step up the fight against fake accounts.
According to the Wall Street Journal, YouTube eliminated dozens of accounts pushing misinformation from Iran’s state media. The Journal reports that the focus on Iran marks a shift for social media companies. According to the Journal:
Until now, Silicon Valley’s efforts have been focused almost exclusively on Russia, as revelations over the past year about Moscow’s influence operations targeting U.S. politics put pressure on social-media giants to detect and remove Kremlin-sponsored campaigns.
Iran’s tactics are different, cybersecurity experts said, focusing on advancing its foreign policy interests in ways not as extreme as Russia’s efforts to disrupt U.S. elections. Iran’s moves have expanded as the toll of international sanctions against the nation rose and tensions between Washington and Tehran increased.
USA Today reports that, while much of the focus over the past couple years has been on misinformation targeted at conservatives, Iran included liberals in its efforts.
The newspaper reports:
One meme on Facebook from a page called the Progressive Front showed former first lady Michelle Obama holding a doctored sign that read “An Immigrant Took My Job,” a swipe at Slovenia-born Melania Trump. A tweet from the account Liberty Front Press urged people to watch a video of a parent and child reunited after being separated at the border “and be reminded of why we fight every day against the monstrous and evil policies of the Trump regime.” YouTube channels featured videos such as “Everything You Need to Know about Impeachment.”
The fake pages, tweets and videos were all part of a covert disinformation campaign by Iran that operated in the USA and other countries, major U.S. tech companies said. Facebook, Google and Twitter disclosed last week they were shuttering hundreds of accounts and channels linked to the campaign.
But Iran wasn’t the only malicious actor targeted by social media companies.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote:
We’re still investigating and there is still a lot that we don’t know. As a company we don’t have all the investigative tools and intelligence that governments have, which makes it hard to always attribute particular abuse to particular countries or groups. But based on what we know, we believe these Pages, Groups and accounts were part of two separate sets of campaigns:
First, a set of activity from Iran, including from some with ties to state-owned media, and second, a set of activity that the US government and others have publicly linked to Russian military intelligence services.