More than 650 pages, accounts, and groups have been taken down by Facebook after they were found to be part of a larger Iranian campaign to spread misinformation in countries all around the world. Some Russian pages were also removed for the same reason.
Most affected by the Iranian pages, some of which posed as a group called “Liberty Front Press,” were the United States, the United Kingdom, Latin America and the Middle East. According to Facebook, Instagram was also used in the misinformation campaigns, with accounts on both media platforms amassing over a million followers.
The developments come at a time when big social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are struggling to protect their platforms ahead of the midterm elections in November from hacking attempts and after Microsoft revealed attacks by Kremlin-tied Russian hacker groups.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s efforts to identify such malicious pages and groups have yielded results. “While it’s still early, we’re starting to see it pay off and we’re identifying more of this before the election,” he told reporters.
Twitter also said on Tuesday that it had removed 284 accounts identified as Iranian, for “coordinated manipulation,” adding that it was working with law enforcement.
The latest attacks appear to be as aggressive as those of 2016 when foreign entities meddled in the presidential election. The pages taken down on Tuesday were aimed at misleading “others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook said.
The company managed to identify a number of these fake pages as a result of a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye.
“This influence operation linked to Iran aims to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests, including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes,” FireEye analyst Lee Foster said. “The activity we have uncovered is significant and demonstrates that actors beyond Russia continue to engage in online, social media-driven influence operations as a means of shaping political discourse.”
US Must Apologize for Bombing Former Yugoslavia, Says Russian Diplomat
The United States must apologize for bombing the former Yugoslavia back in 1999 and pay compensation to the relatives of those killed and injured in the US-backed NATO air raids, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday.
“And for a start, the United States should apologize to those it bombed, pay out compensation to those killed and wounded and to those whose health was damaged because of shells loaded with depleted uranium. And only when this is done, when the proper groundwork has been laid, can it call on others to move forward,” she wrote on her Facebook account, commenting on the statement by outgoing US Ambassador to Serbia, Kyle Scott, who said that the Serbs should look at NATO’s bombings in 1999 from a “broader perspective.”
On March 24, 1999, NATO began a military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. NATO leadership claimed that prevention of genocide of the Albanian population in Kosovo was the main reason behind the operation called Allied Force. NATO said that during the 78-day operation its aircraft flew 38,000 sorties to carry out 10,000 bombing strikes.
Military experts have found that the alliance launched 3,000 cruise missiles and dropped 80,000 bombs, including cluster bombs and low-enriched uranium bombs. According to Serbian forces, the bombardments killed 3,500-4,000 and injured 10,000 others, two thirds of them civilians.
According to Serbian experts, NATO dropped 15 tonnes of depleted uranium over the three months of bombings to make the country Europe’s number one in terms of cancer cases. About 30,000 new cancer cases were registered in the first ten years after the bombings, with the lethality rate from 10,000 to 18,000 patients.
Material damage totaled $100 billion. The strikes against oil refineries and petrochemical plants poisoned the country’s water supply system with toxic chemicals.
According to Ljubisa Rakic, a Serbian scientist and a member of the Serbian, Russian, New York, Eurasian, European and other academies, the amount of low-enriched uranium dropped by NATO on the Balkans was enough to make 170 A-bombs like the one that was dropped by the United States on Japan’s Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Donetsk Leader Urges Sanctions on Kiev over Its Reluctance to Fulfill Minsk Peace Deal
As guarantors, Germany and France should penalize Kiev with sanctions for its unwillingness to fulfill the Minsk agreements to settle the Donbass crisis, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin said on Monday.
“The statements by Ukraine’s new foreign minister that Kiev is not planning to amend the constitution in order to grant Donbass a special status came as no surprise to us… Ukrainian politicians, who have been declaring full commitment to the Minsk [agreements] throughout all these years, are trying to avoid responsibility for failing to honor their obligations,” Pushilin said in a statement published on the Donetsk News Agency’s website.
The Donetsk leader recalled that the special status provisions for the region and on absolving individuals linked to the Donbass events had been confirmed by the Minsk deal, which was backed by the UN Security Council’s binding resolution.
“Any changes and amendments to the Minsk agreements are out of question. If we assume that the world community and the Minsk deal’s guarantors are unbiased, then sanctions should have already been slapped on Ukraine, at least by Germany and France, for violating the agreements and failing to fulfill its commitments as well as for public statements about this made by officials,” Pushilin emphasized.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadim Pristaiko said on September 14 that Kiev would not amend the country’s constitution to include the provisions on granting a special status to Donbass. He also stated that no amnesty would be provided for the Ukrainian conflict participants, although this was stipulated by the Minsk peace accords.
Earlier, the head of Ukraine’s delegation to the Contact Group Leonid Kuchma made a similar statement, stressing that President Vladimir Zelensky would not grant Donbass any special status.
When commenting on Kuchma’s statement, Russia’s envoy to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov noted that any decisions and steps by Kiev and Donbass should be in line with the Minsk deal, stressing that such statements were a direct violation of the agreement, thus jeopardizing the entire peace process.
He noted that this move was aimed at whipping up tensions in Donbass rather than achieving peace as promised to Ukrainian voters.
Russia’s Supreme Court Upholds Espionage Sentence, Keeping Polish Spy Behind Bars
Russia’s Supreme Court has upheld a 14-year espionage sentence of Polish national Marian Radzajewski, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement.
“On September 12, the Russian Supreme Court considered an appeal filed by the defense, as well as its arguments, and ruled to uphold the Moscow City Court’s verdict concerning Polish national Marian Radzajewski, found guilty under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (espionage),” the statement reads.
Radzajewski was found guilty of attempting to acquire certain secret components of the S-300 missile system and illegally transport them to Poland, which posed a genuine threat to Russia’s national security.
He was caught red-handed while trying to strike a deal. “Investigators proved that Marian Radzajewski had acted in the interests of Poland’s leading supplier for the national armed forces and intelligence agencies,” the FSB pointed out.
On June 25, the Moscow City Court sentenced Radzajewski to 14 years in a maximum-security colony. His defense filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court, requesting that the charge be reclassified from espionage to an attempted smuggling of materials and equipment that may be used in the production of weapons (Article 30.1 and Article 226.1.1 of the Russian Criminal Code), so that the Polish national’s sentence could be mitigated.
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