On October 11, Facebook announced that it had removed a network linked to the Revolutionary Guards that praised the military and criticized opposition groups. Facebook took down 93 accounts, 14 pages, 15 groups and 194 Instagram accounts that targeted primarily domestic audiences, mostly in western Lorestan province. Some of the fake accounts, many of which were disabled by automatic systems, posed as local news agencies. Others tried to pose as supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an exiled opposition group that Iran considers a terrorist organization.
Facebook said that the Iranian influence operation was “not particularly novel or sophisticated.” The network purchased fake followers to appear more popular and credible. Some users who came across the content flagged the accounts as fake. “We know that influence operations will keep evolving in response to our enforcement, and new deceptive behaviors will emerge. We will continue to refine our enforcement and share our findings publicly,” Facebook said. The following is an excerpt from its report.
September 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report
We removed 93 Facebook accounts, 14 Pages, 15 Groups and 194 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior. This network originated in Iran and targeted primarily domestic audiences in that country, particularly in Lorestan province.
The people behind this activity relied on fake accounts — many of which were already detected and disabled by our automated systems — to post primarily on Instagram as local news entities, named after cities in Lorestan. Some of these accounts posed as Kurds, including young Kurdish women, and others purported to be supporters of an exiled militant opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in an apparent attempt to build audiences among these different communities. This operation focused primarily on Instagram and appeared to have purchased fake followers for its accounts to make them appear more popular than they were. Some of the accounts went through significant name changes and attempted to contact people on Instagram. They also re-posted content related to Iranian state media and government officials.
The individuals behind this operation posted primarily in Farsi about local news and current events in Lorestan, including encouraging voter turnout in the 2020 Iranian elections and criticizing MEK, the Kurdish nationalist movement, US and Saudi Arabia.
We found this activity as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. Although the people behind it attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
- Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 93 Facebook accounts, 14 Pages, 15 Groups and 194 accounts on Instagram.
- Followers: About 4,300 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, around 3,600 people joined one or more of these Groups, and about 590,000 accounts followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.