Iran posted items on Facebook in an attempt to sway American voters taking part in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, it has been claimed.
A report by the media analytics firm Graphika shows several posts on the social media giant which are said to have been fabricated by Iran in an effort to boost the candidacy of Ron Paul and sabotage the chances of Mitt Romney.
The alleged campaign was years before the Russian Internet Research Agency was alleged to have launched a widespread disinformation campaign through social media in an attempt to influence the 2016 elections.
The Iranian effort is alleged to have been undertaken by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, according to Graphika researchers.
The report claimed that IRIB ran more than 300 active, fake accounts that contained content about global politics.
In March of last year, Facebook said it shut down more than 2,600 fake accounts linked to Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo and aiming to influence political sentiment in various parts of the world.
Iran is alleged to have used fake accounts on Facebook in an attempt to sway American voters during the 2012 Republican presidential primary. The image above shows Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on April 9
It has been alleged that Iran tried to boost the candidacy of Ron Paul (right) while being critical of his rival, Mitt Romney (left)
It was the latest effort by the leading social network to shut down ‘inauthentic’ accounts on Facebook and Instagram seeking to influence politics in the US and elsewhere.
The accounts blocked in the four countries were not necessarily centrally coordinated but ‘used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,’ said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy for the company.
But the Graphika report alleges that Iran was involved in disinformation tactics through Facebook as far back as the 2012 Republican primary race.
Several posts from that year show cartoons in support of the GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul.
The posts cited Paul’s criticism of Israel, a country that Iran considers its sworn enemy.
The Iranians are also said to have posted messages critical of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and current United States senator from Utah.
Unlike Paul, Romney, who eventually won the nomination but lost to the incumbent, Barack Obama, was a vocal supporter of Israel.
The Iranian Facebook campaign is also alleged to have posted content about the Occupy Wall Street movement as well as links to stories about police brutality and racial strife in America.
A media analytics firm claims that Iran tried to help Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul during the 2012 GOP primary
The firm, Graphika, claims that the Iranian government mounted a disinformation campaign through Facebook with the aim of sabotaging the candidacy of the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney
Iran is also said to have posted about the Occupy movement, according to Graphika
An Iranian government spokesperson told NBC News: ‘The Iranian government does not engage in cyber warfare.
‘Iran, itself a victim of US and Israeli cyber attacks, the Stuxnet virus, a cyber attack against Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, is one dangerous example.
‘Cyber activities Iran engages in are purely defensive and to protect against further attacks on Iranian infrastructure.
‘Besides, the US, not Iran, has been one of main member-state opponents of a universal ban of using the cyber warfare in the UN and beyond.’
During the 2016 elections, the Russian government allegedly masterminded a widespread disinformation campaign aimed at sowing dissension in the United States.
Russia has denied the allegation.
The Russian effort was the subject of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The probe by Mueller raised questions as to whether Russia was aided in its efforts either by members of the Trump campaign or their supporters.
Mueller’s investigators concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to implicate Trump associates with conspiring with Russia.