A California-based cybersecurity firm says a network of fake social media accounts impersonated U.S. political candidates and journalists to spread messages in support of Iran and against U.S. President Donald Trump around the 2018 congressional elections.
The firm, called FireEye, said in a report that it has documented the evolving methods of disinformation being used across social media platforms to promote Iranian interests online.
The researchers said the findings show how unidentified groups, possibly backed by the Iranian government, can manipulate social media platforms to promote stories and other content that can influence the opinions of American voters.
FireEye said the campaign was organized through a series of fake personas that created social media accounts, including accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Most of the accounts were created in 2018 and have since been taken down, the FireEye report said.
Twitter and Facebook on May 28 confirmed FireEye's finding that the fake accounts were created on their platforms.
Facebook said that it took down 51 Facebook pages, seven Facebook groups and three Instagram accounts that were all involved in "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that originated geographically from Iran.
It said its actions resulted partly from FireEye’s investigation as well as its own analyses and behavioral tracking.
In recent months, Facebook also has taken down numerous other Iran-linked fake accounts that it has identified as dubious.