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Facebook removed Iranian network of fake accounts targeting protests in Israel

Facebook removed Iranian network of fake accounts targeting protests in Israel
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Facebook removed a network of fake accounts based in Iran that targeted protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, the tech giant said in a monthly report released Friday. 

Facebook removed 12 Facebook accounts, two pages and 307 Instagram accounts as part of the network for violating the company’s policy against foreign interference that is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign entity. 

Facebook said the network was “early in its audience building” and had about 10,000 followers when it was removed. It used fake accounts created around the same time to develop “fictitious personas who purported to be based in Israel and Iraq.”

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The fake accounts posted memes, images and other content in Hebrew and Arabic targeting anti-Netanyahu protests in Israel and criticism of the prime minister and his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The accounts primarily targeted Israel, as well as Iraq, according to Facebook. 

Facebook said the “people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities,” but the company’s investigation found links to individuals associated with a Tehran-based IT company.  

Netanyahu and his supporters used the report as proof that Iran supports the aims of his political opponents, while one of the main protest groups, the Black Flag movement, accused Netanyahu of incitement and called on supporters to attend the group’s next weekly protest Saturday, The Associated Press reported. 

Mass protests have been taking place for months in Israel calling on the prime minister to resign over his trial on multiple corruption charges as well as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the newswire noted. 

In addition to the Iranian network targeting the Israeli protests, Facebook's October monthly report announced the removal of networks based in Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Georgia, Myanmar and Ukraine. 

Facebook’s report also included mentions of networks taken down from Mexico, Venezuela, the U.S., Azerbaijan and Nigeria that the tech giant had previously announced earlier in the month. 

The U.S.-based accounts taken down were part of a network Facebook said was tied to Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump conservative student organization.