Analysis by PMOI/MEK
April 16, 2019 - One day after the official designation of the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the U.S. administration, official Instagram pages related to the IRGC are being closed. This includes accounts affiliated to IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari, IRGC Ground Forces chief Mohammad Pakpour, Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, Armed Forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri and former senior IRGC officers Ezzatollah Zarghami, Ali Fadavi, and Kamali.
Instagram is the social media platform not filtered inside Iran by the ruling mullahs.
The recent account closures also include Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former state police chief and Tehran mayor, and IRGC deputy chief Hossein Salami. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force changed his profile image in an attempt to prevent its closure. State media are reporting that Instagram, after closing accounts of senior IRGC commanders, is also closing those users who used a Farsi hashtag saying, “I, too, am an IRGC member.”
Mehr news agency, affiliated to the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, reported the following:
“Prior to this, in response to a Fox News reporter asking is Qasem Soleimani considered alongside ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answered, “Yes. He is a terrorist.”
These Instagram accounts are being taken down following the closure of thousands of social media accounts affiliated to the mullahs’ cyber army for their fake news campaigns. Various platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been behind this wide scale of actions.
Fake accounts associated to the Iranian regime seeking to manipulate political thought across the globe are once again in the crosshairs of Facebook and Twitter, resulting in a new wave of takedowns by the two highly-used social-media websites.
Facebook announced the removal of 793 pages, groups and accounts linked to the Iranian regime. These mediums were all attempting to manipulate political debates discussing current events, including the Israel-Palestine conflict, the wars in Syria and Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. The accounts and page administrators usually claimed to be locals in at least 26 countries, including Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, and the U.S., according to Facebook. Interesting is how these mediums were constantly posting messages parroting Iranian state-run media content.
With some assistance provided by the security firm FireEye, these latest removals are built on activities found last year by Facebook and Twitter. Cooperation between these two social media industry giants has been key to succeeding in these operations, according to Facebook.
Back in September of 2018, Twitter announced the suspension of 770 accounts known to be based in Iran for violating its rules, regulations, and policies. Ever since the company has taken further action resulting in the suspension of an additional 2,617 malicious accounts. Twitter believes these accounts originated in Iran and posted a whopping 24,000 tweets regarding the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.
In general, Twitter says the volume of election-related content is on the rise.
“In contrast to 2016, we identified much less platform manipulation from bad-faith actors located abroad,” Carlos Monje, Twitter’s head of public policy, wrote in a blog post. “That said, as part of our ongoing review we found limited operations that have the potential to be connected to sources within Iran, Venezuela, and Russia.”
Facebook says it shared campaign information, dating back to its launch in 2010, in collaboration between law enforcement officials in the U.S. and impacted countries. “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our manual review linked these accounts to Iran,” Facebook said in a blog post.
This content consisted of 262 pages, 356 accounts and 3 groups on Facebook, along with an additional 162 accounts on Instagram. Despite these groups spending less than $30,000 in Facebook advertising, around 2 million Facebook users followed at least one of their pages.
During a phone conversation with the media, Facebook officials said they became informed regarding the campaign’s extent through sharing information with Twitter. The latter company’s officials say they removed accounts linked potentially to Moscow and Caracas as a segment of its midterm elections evaluation.