NIAC Statement on Twitter’s Takedown of Thousands of Fake Iran-Linked Accounts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, May 29, 2019 
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

Washington D.C. – Yesterday, Twitter’s Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, tweeted that the social platform had removed over 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran. The accounts are thought to be part of a foreign information operations campaign intending to manipulate information for “national or geopolitical ends.” Separately, Facebook also announced it had removed a number of Iranian origin accounts, groups, and pages that had violated its policy prohibiting “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement in response:

“There is no place for foreign interference in American elections or our political process. We applaud Twitter and Facebook for their efforts to remove accounts, likely Iranian-state backed, that were propagating disinformation or distorting public discourse. At the same time, we are concerned there are still many actors – also potentially state-backed – that are utilizing inauthentic social media accounts and campaigns to manipulate the U.S. political and policy making process.

“Over Memorial Day weekend, a coordinated astroturf campaign was orchestrated on Twitter that slandered and even threatened violence against NIAC and Iranian American journalists, academics, and political candidates who have spoken out against Donald Trump’s Iran policies or otherwise opposed war against Iran.

“Our community has been on the receiving end of attacks from both sides. Iranian-state backed entities have called us agents of Israel and the U.S. government, while fringe groups like the MEK with deep ties to Saudi funding or Israeli-linked groups like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, have accused us of working for the Islamic Republic.  

“The goal of these latest attacks was to create a false perception that Iranians and Iranian Americans support the Trump Administration’s policies towards Iran, including sanctions and potential war, and that pro-peace voices within the Iranian-American community are supportive of or even supported by the Islamic Republic.

“In the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration amplified the voices of Ahmad Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles who helped sell the case that the U.S. would be ‘welcomed as liberators.’ In lieu of an Iranian Chalabi, the forces agitating for war with Iran are using social media manipulation campaigns to fill that role.

“It goes without saying that these outrageous attacks are patently false and that pro-peace advocates, objective analysts, and civil society organizations are integral to the pillars of a functioning American democracy – not products of an Iranian theocracy. 

“We call on platforms like Twitter that are committed to ‘protecting public conversation,’ to review all instances of such coordinated attacks that aim to manipulate American political discourse and undermine or intimidate American civil society. We have already witnessed how social media manipulation helped potentially swing the results of a U.S. Presidential Election, we cannot afford to sit idly by while a similar campaign steers the U.S. into a disastrous war.”

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