FACEBOOK
A Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020.
(Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Facebook announced it took down late Wednesday two networks of accounts engaged in "international interference" -- one originating in Iran and the other in Russia, both of which have alleged connections to military intelligence networks.

The company's officials said the deleted accounts are used by Russian military intelligence to spread false information online against Ukraine and other Eastern European nations.

Calling the accounts "inauthentic behavior," the social media giant's director for security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, stated that these operations were acting on behalf of "a government or foreign actor."

One of the networks, traced in Iran, used six Facebook and five Instagram accounts to engage American groups and comment on the other US forums across the social media sphere, Facebook disclosed.

The posts ranged from various topics like the US-Iran tension, US elections, religion, and immigration laws. Some also lambasted US policies in the Middle East and government personalities.

The account also posted video interviews with academics and news columnists on those issues, Facebook said.

The individuals behind the accounts "coordinated with each other and misrepresented themselves using bogus identities," which was the reason why the social media firm said it deleted the accounts.

In all, 78 profiles, 11 sites, 29-page groups, and four Instagram accounts traced from Russia have been deleted.

Russia's Ministry of Defense did not respond immediately to a request for comment. Moscow previously denied Western claims of political interference, including reports by US Prosecutor Robert Mueller, that the country used social media in an attempt to sway the 2016 US presidential elections.

Around 60 people followed one or more of the Iran-based operations on Facebook and Instagram accounts. The online followers reportedly had connections to the 783 Iran-linked groups and accounts that Facebook deleted in January last year for suspicious activities.

Analysts at social media firm Graphika, who studied the fake accounts before they were deleted, said most of the activity dated back to 2016 and 2017, though some were active as recently as this year.

The accounts in question failed to attract more than a few thousand online followers but was able to gather stories released in some local news companies, Ben Nimmo, Graphika's chief of investigations, said.

Graphika pointed out that fake journalists also conducted interviews with Russian personalities, tricking them into making comments and then sharing these on social media.

Facebook also disclosed it had taken down two other accounts, unconnected to the Russian network. One was tied to a previously-identified Iranian group that has targeted the United States and the other to a public relations agency in Vietnam.