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Iran Regime Caught Spreading Misinformation Against MEK and Others, Twitter Deletes Thousands of Its Accounts

Iran Regime Caught Spreading Misinformation Against MEK and Others, Twitter Deletes Thousands of Its Accounts

By Shahriar Kia

Twitter on Thursday said it removed thousands of accounts linked to coordinated, state-backed activities it believes were from the Iranian regime and archived them to its public database launched last year.

In the latest purge of information, the company said it believes 4,779 accounts were associated or backed by Iran’s regime.

Twitter Inc. first released the archive of data associated with known state-backed information operations last October to provide more transparency of information and to stem manipulation on its platform.

“Thousands of researchers from across the globe have downloaded datasets, which contain more than 30 million Tweets and over 1 terabyte of media, using our archive to conduct their own investigations and to share their insights and independent analysis with the world,” Twitter said in a blog post on June 13, 2019.

Twitter’s post added:

Today’s disclosures

Iran (4,779 accounts)

The below account sets all originated in Iran, and we believe all are associated with — or directly backed by — the Iranian government. However, the signals and behaviors of each set were individually different. We’ve broken them down accordingly:

• Set one (1,666 accounts): We removed more than 1,600 accounts originating in Iran. Cumulatively, these accounts Tweeted nearly 2 million times. They Tweeted global news content, often with an angle that benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state. Platform manipulation is a violation of the Twitter Rules.

• Set two (248 accounts): In addition to the 1,600 accounts listed above, we took action on a second set of more than 200 accounts originating in Iran which were more directly engaged with discussions related to Israel specifically.

• Set three (2,865 accounts): Recently, we discussed an action to remove more than 2,800 accounts originating in Iran. These accounts employed a range of false personas to target conversations about political and social issues in Iran and globally.

Many of the accounts removed by Twitter were heavily involved in a misinformation campaign against the main democratic Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or Mujahedeen-e Khalq, MEK) and Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi.

In May 2019, the Iranian regime was caught once again spreading misinformation and ‘fake news’ online.

‘Endless Mayfly’ is an Iran-aligned network of inauthentic websites and online personas used to spread false and divisive information primarily targeting Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Israel, according to a report published by Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto, on May 14, 2019.

Endless Mayfly has published divisive content on websites that impersonate legitimate media outlets. Inauthentic personas are then used to amplify the content into social media conversations. In some cases, these personas also privately and publicly engage journalists, political dissidents, and activists, Citizen Lab said.

In addition to the personas, a network of pro-Iran websites aided in the dissemination of the inauthentic articles. In total, Citizen Lab documented 353 pages across 132 domains that referenced or linked back to the inauthentic articles.

The top ten domains that most frequently referenced the inauthentic articles are IUVM Press, AWD News, Whatsupic, Yemen Press, Middle East Press, Podaci Dana, Instituto Manquehue, Liberty Fighters, Real Nienovosti and Rasid. Of the top 10, eight (IUVM Press, Whatsupic, AWDNews, Yemen Press, Instituto Manquehue, and RealNienovosti.com) all share the same IP address or registration details, indicating they may be controlled by the same actor.

The Iranian regime has published a host of misinformation and ‘fake news’ reports against the MEK and Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi on IUVM Press, AWD News, Whatsupic, Yemen Press, and Liberty Fighters.