Cyber Security firm FireEye said on Tuesday that a network of fake social media media describes political candidates and journalists to spread messages in support of Iran and US President Donald Trump about the 2018 Congressional elections.
Researchers said the findings indicate that unidentified, perhaps government-supported groups could manipulate social media platforms to promote stories and other content that could affect US voter opinions.
According to the FireEye report, this particular operation focused mainly on promoting “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian topics”.
The campaign was organized through a series of fake people who created various social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook. Most of these accounts were created last year and have since been removed, the report says.
Spokesperson for Twitter and Facebook confirmed FireEye’s finding that fake accounts were created on their platforms.
Lee Foster, a researcher at FireEye, said he found some of the fake characters, often disguised as American journalists, who had successfully convinced some US stores to publish letters to the editor, guest columns, and blog posts.
These articles featured progressive and conservative views, the report said, including topics that include the appointment of the Islamic Revolutionary Islamic Guard Trump Administration as a terrorist organization.
Foster said, “We are deeply appreciated that this network is organized to support Iranian political interests.” “However, we are not at the point where we can say who was doing it or where it was coming.” The investigation is continuing.
Before the 2018 election, the unnamed group created Twitter accounts that also symbolized Republican candidates and Congressional Democrats. It is unclear whether false accounts had any effect on their campaigns.
Twitter accounts often imposed plagiarized messages from legitimate accounts of politicians, but also mixed in posts voicing policy support that is believed to be conducive to Tehran. Included politicians include Jineea Butler, a Republican candidate for New York’s 13th District, and Marla Livengood, a Republican candidate for California’s 9th District. Both Livengood and Batler lost in the election.
The Livengood campaign called the situation “clearly an attempt by evil actors” to undermine its campaign and noted that Livengood was “a fierce opponent of Iranian nuclear weapons”.
Butler could not be reached immediately to comment.
Twitter said in a statement he had “removed this network of 2,800 inaccurate accounts originating from Iran in early May,” adding that his investigation was ongoing.
Facebook said it had removed 51 Facebook accounts, 36 pages, seven groups, and three Instagram accounts related to the impact operation. Instagram is owned by Facebook.
Facebook activity was less stretched than Twitter and seems to be more focused, said cybersecurity policy chief Nathaniel Gleicher. Inaccurate Facebook accounts were often sent to private high profile messages, including Iranian journalists, policymakers and dissidents, to promote certain issues.
Facebook also ended its activity originating in Iran./Investing.com