Iran-Linked Disinformation Campaign on Social Media Hurt Republicans in the 2018 Midterm Elections

The Islamic Republic of Iran may be behind an disinformation campaign that influenced the 2018 midterm elections, but so far no House Democrats have expressed a desire to investigate the matter. On Tuesday, Facebook and Twitter announced that they pulled down a network of fake social accounts that originated in Iran.

Multiple investigations have determined that Russia used similar disinformation techniques in 2016 to interfere in the U.S. election.

According to Reuters:

A network of fake social media accounts impersonated political candidates and journalists to spread messages in support of Iran and against U.S. President Donald Trump around the 2018 congressional elections, cybersecurity firm FireEye said on Tuesday.

The disinformation campaign also managed to trick a number of publications into publishing fake letters to the editor and blogs, according to the report.

“Personas in this network have also had material published in U.S. and Israeli media outlets, attempted to lobby journalists to cover specific topics, and appear to have orchestrated audio and video interviews with U.S. and UK-based individuals on political issues,” the firm said.

“In addition to utilizing fake American personas that espoused both progressive and conservative political stances, some accounts impersonated real American individuals, including a handful of Republican political candidates that ran for House of Representatives seats in 2018,” FireEye wrote in a blog post.

Among the candidates impersonated on Twitter were Marla Livengood, who lost in the 9th district of California to Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), and Jineea Butler, a 2018 candidate who lost her race for New York’s 13th district to Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.).

Livengood’s campaign told NBC News that they were not aware of the candidate’s  Twitter impersonator. “This seems to be kind of an ongoing problem in campaigns … We have people that are looking at what happened in the 2016 election and trying to duplicate that on a local level,” said Scott Winn, a Livengood campaign official.

In a statement to Politico, Winn expressed disappointment in Twitter for being either unwilling or unable to remove the fake accounts. “A strident opponent of nuclear weapons in Iran, Marla is shocked that Twitter was either unwilling, disinterested or too inept to protect users from obvious false information,” he said. “Twitter users deserve better.”

Twitter said in a statement that it had “removed this network of 2,800 inauthentic accounts originating in Iran at the beginning of May.”

Facebook announced that it had removed 51 Facebook accounts, 36 Pages, seven Groups and three Instagram accounts connected to the Iran-linked influence operation.
FireEye couldn’t say for sure whether the network was linked to the Iranian government.

“If it is of Iranian origin or supported by Iranian state actors, it would demonstrate that Iranian influence tactics extend well beyond the use of inauthentic news sites and fake social media personas, to also include the impersonation of real individuals on social media and the leveraging of legitimate Western news outlets to disseminate favorable messaging,” the report says.

Democrat political operatives also have a recent history of using disinformation tactics on social media, the Daily Caller pointed out.

Democratic operatives, for instance, allegedly used social media in 2017 to undermine support for Republican Roy Moore’s senatorial campaign in Alabama and boosted his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, who narrowly won the race. Jones has since publicly called for an investigation into the caper.

Operatives involved in the ploy created thousands of Twitter accounts posing as Russian bots in order to boost Jones. There is evidence the campaign caused a splash. Major media outlets — both in Alabama and nationally — fell for the gambit and amplified the false narrative in October 2017.

A firm funded by left-wing tech billionaire Reid Hoffman ran a widespread campaign using misleading Facebook pages in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

American Engagement Technologies (AET), which was founded by former Obama administration official Mikey Dickerson, aggressively placed ads on social media designed to suppress Republican voter turnout in the 2018 election.

Strangely enough, Democrats aren’t interested in investigating those influence operations.

 AFP PHOTO/ Henghameh FAHIMI (Photo credit should read HENGHAMEH FAHIMI/AFP/Getty Images)

About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.

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