On Tuesday, Facebook revealed that in July it was given a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye about a network of pages and accounts called “Liberty Front Press.” Facebook began an investigation, which identified additional related pages and accounts with a link to Iranian state media. The first ones were created in 2013.
“Some of them attempted to conceal their location, and they primarily posted political content focused on the Middle East, as well as the UK, US, and Latin America,” Facebook said. “Beginning in 2017, they increased their focus on the UK and US. Accounts and Pages linked to ‘Liberty Front Press’ typically posed as news and civil society organizations sharing information in multiple countries without revealing their true identity.”
The group had 74 pages, 70 accounts and three groups on Facebook as well as 76 accounts on Instagram. Some 155,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages, and from January 2015 through August 2018, more than $6,000 was spent on Facebook and Instagram ads, paid for in U.S. and Australian dollars.
There were two other parts of Facebook’s investigation. One identified the link between “Liberty Front Press” and other accounts posing as news organizations, attempting to hack user accounts and spreading malware. The other uncovered accounts and pages that mostly shared content about Middle East politics as well as politics in the U.K. and U.S.
Facebook has overhauled its advertising platform, ramped up content moderation and hired additional third-party reviewers as a result of the recent coordinated campaigns. It’s touted successes in more recent global elections, like the French and Mexican contests as evidence of its improved detection capabilities.
— CNBC’s Sara Salinas and Jordan Novet contributed to this report.