Facebook uncovers Iran disinformation to sow political discord over Trump, race

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SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook has uncovered a covert Iranian disinformation campaign which attempted to sow political discord in the U.S. over such hot-button issues as race, immigration, police brutality and President Trump ahead of the November midterm elections.

The social media giant said Friday it detected the activity coming from dozens of pages, accounts and groups on Facebook and Instagram late last week. Facebook removed 82 Facebook pages, groups and accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that originated in Iran and targeted people in the U.S. and U.K. over the course of the last year, the company said.

The Facebook announcement, coming two weeks before the midterms, was a bracing reminder of the growing scale and frequency of disinformation operations threatening the United States on social media, some of it tied to foreign governments, even as Facebook adds thousands of new employees and strengthens technology to more quickly root out and take down disinformation campaigns.

The page administrators and account owners typically misrepresented themselves as U.S. citizens, or in a few cases U.K. citizens, to post on politically divisive subjects ripped from the headlines such as the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Last week Twitter disclosed more than 1 million tweets from the same operation.

“We have found no ties at this point to the Iranian government,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters in a conference call Friday. He could not say for certain who was behind the operation. The investigation is ongoing and Facebook is working with federal law enforcement, he said.

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