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Facebook removed hundreds of accounts and pages linked to Iran

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Facebook has removed nearly 800 fake accounts, pages and groups its security researchers say were linked to Iran.

The accounts, which were in many cases made to look

Facebook has removed nearly 800 fake accounts, pages and groups its security researchers say were linked to Iran.

The accounts, which were in many cases made to look like local news organizations, engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior," according to Facebook and had accumulated more than 2 million followers and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.

As with previous mass takedowns tied to Iran, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, was quick to caution that though the accounts originated in Iran, the company hasn't been able to definitively say whether or not it was part of a state sponsored campaign.

"It's emanating from Iran by actors in Iran," Gleicher said during a briefing with reporters. "We're not in a position to directly assert who the actor is in this case, we're asserting what we can prove." Gleicher did point out, though, that much of the content posted by the accounts in question appeared to be "repurposed" from Iranian state media.

The accounts, included 262 Facebook pages, 356 Facebook accounts, 162 Instagram accounts, and three Facebook groups, which primarily targeted people in the European Union and Middle East. In each case, the people behind these accounts were "were representing themselves as news outlets and public interest groups," posting news stories "that repurposed Iranian state media’s reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia."

Facebook discovered the accounts, some of which dated back to 2010, thanks in part to work with Twitter. The companies often collaborate as part of an industry-wide effort to root out fake accounts and state-sponsored influence campaigns.

The takedown is the first time Facebook has identified "inauthentic" activity from Iran. The company removed hundreds of accounts last August, and removed another 82 pages and accounts, which were targeting the U.S and UK in October.

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