Google uncovered and curbed an online misinformation campaign originating from Iran, the company's Global Affairs SVP Kent Walker said Thursday. The Mountain View, California-based social media giant's investigation "strongly linked" the attack with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, a media corporation owned by Tehran. The discovery was made with the help of cybersecurity firm FireEye which identified a number of YouTube, Gmail, and Google+ accounts participating in the misinformation effort whose details remain unclear, though the main implication is that American citizens were its primary target.
In total, Google removed 39 YouTube channels, 13 Google+ profiles, and six Blogger-hosted blogs as part of the operation. The video channels in question had 13,466 views on misinformation videos from the United States, Google disclosed, suggesting the attack was aimed at influencing the American public. The IRIB link was made based on a number of "technical data," according to Mr. Walker. The probe of the incident is still ongoing and Google already contacted stateside authorities with information pertaining to the case. The newly uncovered misinformation effort started no later than January of 2017, though its effectiveness was limited, according to the company's report.
Facebook eliminated another misinformation campaign originating from Iran earlier this week but didn't directly associate the incident with Tehran. Twitter disclosed doing the same several days back, with the timing of the three announcements suggesting the Silicon Valley giants have been collaborating on fighting the spread of fake news and related issues, either directly or with some mediation from U.S. authorities. FireEye also assisted Facebook in its investigation, with that fact adding more credence to the possibility that the incidents are linked. The tech industry's fight against fake news is likely to become more aggressive as mid-terms draw near, with several government agencies already warning that foreign actors will try influencing the upcoming election just like they meddled with the 2016 presidential race. To date, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 25 people and three firms from Russia over election interference.