On August 21st, Facebook, Twitter and Google collectively removed hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to Iran or Russia.
An analysis by the cybersecurity company FireEye Inc. claimed that an Iranian-linked campaign, through a network of fake news websites and fraudulent social media personas spread across Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, Twitter and YouTube pushed narratives in line with Iran’s interests.
Russia was allegedly linked to similar campaigns, one of its alleged aims is to sow political divisions among the US voters ahead of the November mid-term elections. Reuters, however, cited FireEye which said that its findings showed that the same tactics are being used to different ends.
FireEye further claimed the Iranian activity included “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes” and advocacy of policies favorable to Iran such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. There has also been no Russian response.
“Today we removed multiple Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. Some of this activity originated in Iran, and some originated in Russia,” said a statement released by Facebook on August 21st.
PressTV reported that one of the removed accounts was Quest 4 Truth (Q4T), which is an Iranian media organization that promotes Islamic values. The organization is also linked to PressTV, according to Gleicher, cited by News24.
Facebook further wrote in bold text, “We’ve removed Pages, groups and accounts that can be linked to sources the US government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services. This is unrelated to the activities we found in Iran.”
Unnamed Facebook officials said they had briefed the U.S. Treasury and State Departments in case the activity involved any potential violations of U.S. sanctions, which don’t prohibit U.S. companies from providing internet services to Iran.
Reuters quoted FireEye as saying that the Iranian activity included “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes” and advocacy of policies favorable to Iran such as the 2015 nuclear deal, to which the US was a party before pulling out in May in defiance of the international community.
On August 20th, Microsoft claimed that hackers linked to the Russian government sought to steal email login credentials from US politicians and think tanks, as cited by Reuters.
The Iranian activity, according to FireEye did not appear “dedicated” to influencing the November elections, however some of the posts aimed at US users supposedly adopted “left-leaning identities” and took stances against US President Donald Trump.
Reuters further cited FireEye, which said that US focused activity ramped up in 2017 after Trump assumed office. The campaign also does not just include English-language sites, Arabic-language, Middle East-focused websites appear to be part of the same campaign, according to FireEye.
So far, Reuters cited FireEye who expressed “moderate confidence” about the Iranian origins of the accounts, however they had not been able to tie the accounts to specific organizations or individuals.
Summing up the evidence provided on this situation the question appears: Even if all these accounts are linked to Iranian citizens or even to members of the IRGC, how can this fact justify the censorship employed against them? Even if these accounts provide an “official attitude” of the Iranian leadership, they are implementing their right of freedom of speech.
It can be understood if some government blocks accounts created by a foreign power solely to meddle into its internal policy and to mainuplate its society. However, in other cases, this is just an example of discrimination on political, social and religious grounds.
Not only is it extremely cruel to persecute in this brief life those who do not think the way we do, but I do not know if it might be too presumptuous to declare their eternal damnation.