“Facebook and Twitter each said on Tuesday they had disabled a sprawling disinformation campaign that appeared to originate in Iran, including two accounts on Twitter that mimicked Republican congressional candidates and may have sought to push pro-Iranian political messages,” reports the Washington Post's Tony Romm.
Some of accounts Twitter says it disabled seem to have been targeting propaganda at individual “journalists, policymakers, dissidents and other influential U.S. figures online,” which suggests “a new escalation in social-media warfare, with malicious actors stealing real-world identities to spread disinformation beyond the web.”
Buckle up. Excerpt:
Twitter said it had removed about 2,800 accounts originating in Iran at the beginning of May, but it did not tie the accounts to the country’s government. Its disclosure came at the same time as a report from the cybersecurity firm FireEye that identified a “network of English-language social media accounts” on the site that often posted on “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes.”
FireEye did not directly attribute the activity to either Iranian state leaders or malicious actors operating within the country. But it noted that some of the tweets supported the Iranian nuclear deal, which President Trump withdrew from a year ago, while opposing some of the White House’s policies in the Middle East.
Two of those accounts also impersonated Republicans who ran for Congress — Marla Livengood, who lost her bid to represent California’s 9th Congressional District, and Jineea Butler, who was defeated in her attempt to win a seat representing New York’s 9th Congressional District. The accounts used photos of the candidates and even mimicked some of the Republicans’ authentic tweets. The fake accounts commented on mainstream political subjects, such as the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, but sometimes pivoted to issues that pertained to Iranian interests.