Newly discovered social media posts from 2012 have revealed Iranian attempts to manipulate U.S. politics. These attempts were documented in a new report by a social media analyst firm Graphika.
The report showcases various Facebook posts using which Iran tried to influence voters participating in 2012’s Republican presidential primaries. Now taken down, these posts were seemingly aiming to boost the candidacy of Ron Paul and damage the chances of Mitt Romney.
Made using bland page names like ‘Anonymous’ and ‘Political Cartoons’, these posts contained cartoons in support of Ron Paul’s bid for the 2012 Republican nomination. The posts showcased Paul’s criticism of Israel, a country that Iran considers its sworn enemy.
Later that year, through an account, the same Iranian network shared content regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement. The account asked for stories about police brutality and shared links to police beating protesters.
According to Graphika researchers, this alleged and now-abandoned campaign was led by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). The firm’s findings showed that IRIB operated more than 300 (confirmed) active, fake Facebook accounts containing content about global politics.
Even though none of these posts got much engagement, they do highlight something concerning. They show that Iran was the first to engage in a social media disinformation campaign, starting as early as 2012.
Before this, such a tactic was allegedly planned and improvised by the Russian Internet Research Agency. In another more recently social media disinformation campaign, Russia had tried to influence the 2016 elections.
Other instances of Iran’s trying to influence the U.S. politics were also revealed as a site titled “Unfinished Peace” had also been used to spread false information in the spring of 2016. Their activities were identified by the cybersecurity firm FireEye. It had corresponding Facebook and Twitter accounts which have all since been deleted.
Iran denies all such allegations
In the same manner, as Russia, Iran has denied all allegations of being involved in any cyber warfare. An Iranian government spokesperson said in a statement that the Iranian government does not practice or engage in cyber warfare. The Iranian spokesperson further added that Iran only engages in cyber activities that are purely defensive and designed to prevent attacks on the Iranian infrastructure.