Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election may be motivating other foreign adversaries to use social media to try to disrupt U.S. elections going forward, security experts warn. Experts point to Facebook’s announcement this week that it shuttered hundreds of pages tied to foreign governments, with many of the pages — as well as accounts shut down on Twitter and Google — linked to the government of Iran. The development boosted the Trump administration’s claim that other foreign groups, not just Russians, are intent to sow discord while putting a fresh spotlight on the need to ward against election meddling coming from any country. “Look no further than the amazing return of investment yielded by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin in the 2016 election,” said Ron Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division. “When you see that kind of impact and the U.S. government’s … reticence to fire like weapons back, it is to me not at all surprising that we now have Iran involved in these misadventures,” added Hosko, who is now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.
Security firm FireEye, which first flagged the suspicious accounts to Facebook, determined that certain accounts that had been sharing links to stories from a news site were fake. Since then, Google has also started to remove dozens of other Iran-linked accounts from YouTube and other sites.
Lee Foster, the manager of FireEye’s information operations intelligence analysis team, said that the accounts and pages appeared to be shaping a message favorable to Iran’s national interests.
Foster, whose team helped uncover the initial Facebook groups from Iran, called the report revealing the Iranian influence campaign “significant because it demonstrates that there are actors other than Russia engaging in this type of activity.”