Facebook said it has removed nearly 800 pages, accounts, and groups tied to Iran for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on its platforms.
The 783 fake accounts were falsely representing themselves as locals to users in various countries, mostly focusing on the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, the company said on a Thursday press call. These fake accounts shared news stories and commentary about current events, including Israel-Palestine relations and conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Facebook said the accounts were followed by two million Facebook users and 254,000 Instagram users; the accounts spent around $30,000 for ads on Facebook and Instagram.
Looking at some examples Facebook provided, the posts from these accounts seem to back political views in line with the Iranian government’s positions on foreign affairs. Several included anti-Israel sentiment. One post was an image with French text that read, “I do not recognize Israel at all,” posted by an account called “Israel is a war criminal,” also in French. One post was pro-Russia, another critical of the government of UAE. Facebook said a more detailed report about the nature of the posts will be released by the independent Atlantic Council shortly.
The company could not confirm that the posts were created by the Iranian government, but did say that they included commentary that was repurposed by Iranian state media. When asked, a Facebook representative declined to share any specific political motive behind the activity.
“These were interconnected and localized operations, which used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, in a company blog post on Thursday.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has taken down fake accounts from Iran or other countries. Last August, Facebook took down 650 accounts from Iran and Russia. And in April, the company took down 170 accounts from the Internet Research Agency, an organization with ties to the Russian government.
The announcement comes at a time when the European Union is expected to bypass US-imposed sanctions with Iran and restart trade, despite President Trump’s urging Congress to remain tough on the country. The fact that Facebook is finding accounts tied to Iran guilty of inauthentic behavior on their platform probably won’t help negotiations.
Twitter also revealed today that it took down thousands of bad-actor accounts on its platform with ties to Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. Facebook said it teamed up with its social media competitor to help identify the fake accounts from Iran.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.