Facebook says suspected hackers behind US election threats operated in 2019

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Iranian hackers suspected of exposing threatening messages to US voters weekly and spreading false information regarding compromised election systems conducted a disinformation campaign last year targeting the Middle East, Facebook has said.

US officials blamed Iran a week to get thousands of threatening emails along with an online video that purported to show hackers breaking into a voter registration system only days ahead of the US presidential election.

Facebook stated it had suspended one fake account which attempted to split the video on its website. That accounts in turn resulted in over 20 other accounts on Facebook and Instagram, revealing a dormant disinformation operation that had targeted countries including Israel and Saudi Arabia in 2019, the company said.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the newly-discovered accounts were mostly static, but had previously tried to spread claims about an “alleged massacre” at a year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.

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US intelligence agencies are still analysing who in Iran commanded the operation and its purpose, three individuals who have knowledge of the subject told Reuters last week.

Gleicher said his team found a few technical links to a disinformation network suspended in April which was attributed to Iran’s state broadcaster, also as “connections to individuals associated with the Iranian government.”

Facebook also said it had two webpages and 22 Instagram accounts conducted by men and women from Mexico and Venezuela that used fake identities and other forms of so-called “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” to post about current events and politics in the US.

Some of the accounts posed as Americans and posted in Spanish and English about topics including race relations, feminism and the environment, Facebook explained. They were identified following a tip from the FBI, it included.

While it wasn’t clear who was behind the activity, some reports posted captioned photographs previously employed by the Internet Research Agency, the Russian organization US prosecutors have said played a key role in Moscow’s efforts to sway the 2016 US election.

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Gleicher said both networks, in addition to a third surgery targeting Internet users in Myanmar, was captured before they could attract substantial followings.

But he stated “malicious actors” were increasingly using concerns about their own election hindrance tries to further sow distrust and division.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Jack Stubbs. Editing by Edward Tobin.

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