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Facebook removes accounts tied to influence campaign from Iran and Russia

Facebook removes accounts tied to influence campaign from Iran and Russia
Facebook says it's taking a more proactive stance against "inauthentic behavior" to ensure another meddling campaign doesn't undermine the midterm election. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Facebook said Tuesday it removed 652 pages and accounts associated with separate influence campaigns originating from Iran and Russia.

The social network did not say what the campaigns’ goals were, but described one as being organized by Iranian state media and the other linked to Russian military intelligence. Facebook said there was no evidence to suggest the campaigns were aimed at disrupting the November midterm election.

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The announcement comes less than a month after Facebook said it took down 32 separate pages and accounts tied to an influence campaign aimed at sowing discord, much like Russian efforts in the run-up to the 2016 election. Those pages and accounts even successfully organized live events.

Facebook used Tuesday’s announcement to underscore how much its systems and coordination with law enforcement have improved over the last two years in detecting what it calls “inauthentic behavior.” Facebook is under pressure to show it can prevent misinformation and foreign influence in the months leading up to the midterms.

“We ban this kind of behavior because we want people to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook,” the company said in a blog post. “And while we’re making progress rooting out this abuse, as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well funded.”

Facebook said it received a tip from a Milpitas, Calif., cybersecurity firm, FireEye, in July about a suspicious network of pages called “Liberty Front Press.” Facebook later determined the network was linked to Iranian state media. Most of the accounts and pages associated with the organization shared content about Middle East politics.

The other campaign originating from Russia shared content about politics in Syria and Ukraine — primarily to spread pro-Russian and pro-Assad views, Facebook said.

None of the accounts from the Russian campaign appeared to target users in the U.S.

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