Meta Removes Iran-Based Fake Accounts Targeting Users In Scotland

1/20/2022

Facebook parent Meta Platforms removed a network of fake accounts that originated in Iran and targeted Instagram users in Scotland with content supporting Scottish independence, the company said on Thursday.

The network used fake accounts to pose as locals in England and Scotland, posting photos and memes about current events and criticism of the United Kingdom's government, Meta said.

The accounts organized their content around common hashtags promoting the cause, though they at times misspelled them, the company said.

In a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, Scots voted 55%-45% to remain in the United Kingdom, but both Brexit and the British government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for independence among Scots and demands for a second vote.

Meta said its investigation found links to individuals in Iran, including people with a background in teaching English as a foreign language.

It said the operation had some connections with a small Iran-based network it previously removed in December 2020, but did not provide further details on who might be behind the activity.

"We've seen a range of operations coming from Iran over the last few years," said Ben Nimmo, Meta's global threat intelligence lead for influence operations, in a press briefing. "It's not a monolithic environment."

The social media company said it had removed eight Facebook accounts and 126 Instagram accounts as part of this latest network in December for violating its rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior.

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