Google Takes Down the Iranian Regime’s Fake Accounts Used to Demonize the MEK
Google’s Threat Analysis Group published its TAG bulletin for the Second Quarter of 2020, in which it revealed it had taken down ten coordinated influence operation campaigns during the second quarter of 2020.
One of the campaigns among the ten terminated relates to the Iranian regime involving at least three YouTube channels dedicated to demonizing the MEK, the principal Iranian opposition organization. The report reads: “We terminated 3 YouTube channels as part of our ongoing investigation into coordinated influence operations linked to Iran.
Google said it took down 10 influence operation campaigns in Q2 2020. Look at #5. Youtube accounts against #MEK @Mojahedineng in Bosnian & Arabic. https://t.co/9B9slT0MdV via @ZDNet & @campuscodi @NCRIUS @statedeptspox @USAdarFarsi @AP @ReutersIran @AFP
— Ali Safavi (@amsafavi) August 6, 2020
The campaign posted content in Bosnian and Arabic that was critical of the U.S. and the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran). This campaign was consistent with similar findings reported by Facebook.”
This is not the first time that the Iranian regime’s plots to demonize the MEK have been revealed. As the officials of Twitter stated on October 17, 2018, “It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease.”
In September 2018, following an expert report by the Cybersecurity company, Fire-Eye, Twitter deleted 770 of the regime’s accounts after discovering that they were used to spread misinformation. Facebook, Google, and Instagram had also closed Iranian-regime accounts from their platforms around the same time.
On October 17, 2018, Twitter released a total of 1,122,936 tweets related to the terminated accounts, along with embedded photos and videos, which were then released to the public. A considerable number of the messages were directed at the MEK and the Iranian Resistance.
Earlier on, Reuters had also reported that “The inauthentic Facebook accounts instead often privately messaged high profile figures, including journalists, policy-makers and Iranian dissidents, to promote certain issues. “The MEK has long been subject to a large campaign of disinformation by the Iranian regime related accounts.”
The campaign discovered in August 2018 consisted of hundreds of fake social media accounts and news sites that spread pro-regime propaganda. A number of the posts were targeted at the MEK and the Iranian Resistance. The accounts originated within Iran.
Iranian Regime Used Twitter to Demonize the #MEK http://mek-iran.com/2018/11/01/iranian-regime-used-twitter-to-demonize-the-mek/#
On July 23, 2019, in another attempt, the Iranian regime impersonated the French consulate to Israel, and by putting together lies, through a series of tweets published from that account, tried to spread misinformation about Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The thread claimed that Mrs. Maryam Rajavi was traveling to Israel with the purpose of “meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the Mossad spy agency.” The report also falsely stated: “The trip, carried out with the help of (Rudy) Giuliani and in coordination with Israel’s ambassador to Albania Boaz Rodkin, has direct ties with the MEK and the Israeli intelligence agency (Mossad).”
Oddly enough, the Iran lobby and the advocates of the Iranian regime tried using fake news as a new way of demonizing the MEK. Social media was filled with posts attempting to make use of the disinformation. Twitter shut down “Pierre Cochard’s” account (the impersonated account) within a matter of hours, after which they discovered that the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) had controlled the Twitter handle since 2013.
A good example of how #Iranlobby, regime advocates &affiliates spread lies and rumors about #Iran's main opposition.
A fake account impersonating Pierre Cochard, quoting #FakeNews from"a former colleague in Tehran" Tweeted by Esfandiari like below⬇️. pic.twitter.com/0FKqtsBZbU
— Ka Veh (@kaveh20092009) July 23, 2019
Simultaneously, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an official statement, declaring “the head of the French consulate in Jerusalem is the target of an identity theft act on Twitter. The French consulate wants Internet users to be alert.”
The propaganda and fake accounts on various social media, targeting the MEK and the leaders of the Iranian opposition, confirm the MEK’s long-held assertion that the Iranian regime considers the organization as an existential threat and sees the destruction of the MEK as the only way to maintain its claim to power.