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Facebook, Twitter delete hundreds of accounts from Iran and Venezuela

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Facebook, Twitter delete hundreds of accounts from Iran and Venezuela
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Facebook revealed on Thursday that it had removed hundreds of accounts originating from Iran for engaging in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" on its platforms.

Another social media giant, Twitter, said on the same day that it had deleted thousands of accounts originating from Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Bangladesh in the past few months for "malicious activity."

Facebook

A total of 783 pages, groups, and accounts were removed from Facebook "for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour tied to Iran," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, in a blog post.

These accounts operated in 23 countries, most of them in the Middle East but also several European Union countries including France, Spain and Germany as well as the United States, with the account owners presenting themselves as locals.

These accounts posted "commentary that repurposed Iranian state media's reports on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia," wrote Gleicher.

About two million accounts followed at least one of the Facebook pages taken down while 254,000 accounts followed at least one of the Instagram accounts targeted.

The latest round of removal comes just two weeks after the social media platform took down two large disinformation networks linked to Russia comprising 364 accounts.

Twitter

Separately, Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of site integrity, said that since August 2018 the site had suspended 2,617 "malicious accounts," which it believes may have origins in Iran.

A further 418 accounts mostly originating from Russia were removed. Twitter said the accounts had sent nearly a million tweets of which at least 73,000 talked about the 2018 midterm elections.

This comes after Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, revealed in September that a total of 3,843 accounts had been suspended.

Additionally, nearly 2,000 accounts from Venezuela were removed. Some of them were found to be "another example of a foreign campaign of spammy content focused on divisive political themes" although Twitter was "unable to definitely tie the accounts to information operations of a foreign government against another country."

Meanwhile a vast majority of them (1,196) "appear to be engaged in state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences," said Roth.

Finally, Twitter also deleted "a very small number of accounts" allegedly originating from Bangladesh for engaging in "coordinated platform manipulation." The tweets were entirely in Bengali and "focused on regional political themes."