SAN FRANCISCO – Last year, when Facebook released a comprehensive, coordinated disinformation campaign by Russian agents, the company presented the first evidence of a new kind of information war.
Now, mischiefers seem to be in other countries According to the Russian textbook
Facebook said Friday that it has identified and removed a new influence network that originated in Iran. It was the second time this year that a disinformation campaign against people in the United States and Britain was tied to Iranians.
The company took more than 82 pages, groups and accounts, including 30 Facebook pages, 33 Instagram accounts and three Facebook groups, it said. About one million users in the United States and the UK followed these accounts.
But the nature of the material released on Friday was remarkably similar. The accounts linked to Iran often published emotionally charged topics such as race relations and President Trump.
The posts – or memes, as they are often called – hit other hot buttons. One of them was quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who became a lightning bolt for conservative criticism when he protested against police violence against black Americans by kneeling during the national anthem before the National Football League games. Www.mjfriendship.de/de/index.php?op…80&Itemid=58 Another, oddly enough, with photos of actor Tom Hanks being manipulated to apparently wear shirts printed with various protest slogans.
"The Russian textbook is open," said Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat of Virginia a statement. "Social media companies need to be more active, and Congress needs to set some barriers so that disinformation and misinformation can not thrive on these platforms."
In August, Facebook said it had found another influence operation that originated in Iran and Russia. And the company said this month that it had written off 559 pages and 251 US-operated accounts, many of which amplified false and misleading content in a coordinated fashion.
Facebook officials did not say on Friday how they had pursued the last batch of disinformed accounts for Iran, adding that the investigators had not tied them directly to the Iranian government. The company is working with British and American officials and other technology companies on their investigation.
But several of the reports had ties to Iranian state media and conflated opinions with pro-government positions, the company said. Some also had links to the influence network discovered in August.
Less than $ 100 was spent on two separate ads by the person or persons behind the influence operation, and these were paid in US and Canadian dollars, the company said. This suggests that perpetrators no longer rely on Facebook advertising to increase the spread of disinformation, said Renee DiResta, research director at New Knowledge, an organization that investigates disinformation campaigns.
The posts intended for British users took both sides in the country's political debates. One contribution, for example, was critical of Prime Minister Theresa May, while another supported Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Similar messages were part of the cache that was removed from Facebook last month.
The British authorities have worried that foreigners will post divisive messages online after the country's vote to leave the European Union. Last week, a parliamentary committee released evidence that an anonymous group had advertised on Facebook to circumvent Ms May's strategy to seek a way out of Europe.
These revelations have sparked concern in Europe that the region is rapidly becoming a routine destination for foreign propaganda, including the European Parliament elections scheduled for May. France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and other members of the European Union have all tackled the fight against online misinformation.
In Washington, calls to regulate Facebook have grown louder over the past year. The company does not prohibit false news but prohibits "inauthentic" accounts – when users misrepresent their identities or create legions of automated bots to distribute felicitating messages.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook boss, has the fight against the influence campaigns as "arms race", and the observers of the campaigns believe that the tactics are developing rapidly. According to a study by the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank, reports published on Friday appear to have released fewer pro-Iranian messages than in August.
"Their behavior showed how much they had adapted from earlier companies that focus more on social media than on third-party websites and become much more involved," reads a blog post by Ben Nimmo and Graham Brookie, Researchers at the Digital Forensics Research Lab of the Atlantic Council. "It's important to understand the evolution of this threat to make sure it responds to it."