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Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook. (file photo)

Facebook says it has removed almost 800 "coordinated, inauthentic" pages, groups, and accounts directed from Iran that were part of a manipulation campaign operating in more than 20 countries.

The world's biggest social network said on January 31 that it coordinated closely with Twitter to discover the accounts, which exhibited "malicious-looking indicators."

The pages, 783 in total, were part of a campaign to promote Iranian interests abroad by creating fake identities as residents of the countries in question, Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said in a statement.

"We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don't want our services to be used to manipulate people," Gleicher said.

"We're taking down these pages, groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post. In this case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action," he added.

Facebook has been publishing results of such account purges in recent months, including ones linked to groups in Burma, Bangladesh and Russia.

Its threat intelligence team has also stepped up activities to demonstrate its commitment to preventing interference in events such as elections after Russia reportedly used Facebook and other social media sites to create turmoil in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

In the operation, about 2 million accounts followed at least one of the pages taken down, Facebook said, while about 1,600 accounts joined at least one of these groups, and more than 254,000 accounts followed at least one of the Instagram accounts involved.

The operators of the deleted accounts referred to in the January 31 announcement "typically represented themselves as locals, often using fake accounts, and posted news stories on current events," including "commentary that repurposed Iranian state media's reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen," Gleicher said.

"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review linked these accounts to Iran," he added.

Facebook said the fake accounts were part of an influence campaign that operated in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United States, and Yemen.

Raul Arashukov has been accused of using his official position to create a criminal group, among other charges.

A Moscow district court has ordered the detention of the father of a ruling-party lawmaker who is being held on murder charges by authorities who suspect he was behind two contract killings in the North Caucasus region of Karachai-Cherkessia in 2010.

With the January 31 ruling, Raul Arashukov, an adviser to the chief executive of a Gazprom subsidiary and the father of upper parliament house member Rauf Arashukov, will be held until March 30, Judge

Yelena Lenskaya said in the court ruling.

Raul Arashukov, 59, is suspected of fraud and of using his official position to create a criminal group

He has also been accused of stealing 30 million rubles ($453 million) worth of natural gas over several years.

His son was taken into custody at a session of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament's upper chamber, on January 30 after lawmakers agreed to strip him of his immunity from prosecution.

Russian lawmaker Rauf Arashukov in a Moscow court on January 30.
Russian lawmaker Rauf Arashukov in a Moscow court on January 30.

The younger Arashukov, 32, was charged with murder, participation in a "criminal community," and witness-tampering.

The Moscow district court has ordered that he also be held until March 30 and could face life in prison if convicted of murder.

He is suspected of involvement in the 2010 killings of Fral Shebzukhov, an adviser to the leader of Karachai-Cherkessia at the time, and Aslan Zhukov, the deputy chairman of a youth movement in the mostly Muslim region, the committee said.

Both victims were shot; Shebzukhov was also beaten with a baseball bat.

Raul Arashukov is a lawmaker in Karachai-Cherkessia and has worked as an adviser to the CEO of Mezhregiongaz, an affiliate of state-controlled gas giant Gazprom, since 2011.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax

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