Facebook has removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to an Iranian exile group and a troll farm in Albania.
The accounts posted content critical of Iran’s government and supportive of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a dissident group known as MEK. In many cases, the Facebook and Instagram accounts used fake profile names and photos.
Facebook determined the accounts were being run from a single location in Albania by a group working on behalf of MEK.
Facebook found other telltale clues suggesting a troll farm, in which workers are paid to post content, often misinformation, to social media.
For one, researchers found that the activity seemed to follow the central European workday, with posts picking up after 9am, slowing down at the end of the day, and with a noticeable pause at lunchtime.
MEK is a leading group opposing the Iranian government. It killed Americans before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was labelled as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department until 2012.
The network of fake accounts was most active in 2017 and again in late 2020, Facebook said. In all, more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram were removed as part of the company’s action.
About 112,000 people followed one or more of the Instagram accounts.