Facebook on Tuesday disclosed the latest disinformation campaign to surface on its platform: a propaganda effort based in Iraq designed to spread messages favorable to the country’s former dictator, among other political sentiments.
The company opted to disclose two “unconnected operations” together, couching revelations of an Iraq-based campaign within a blog post that also detailed relatively routine disinformation finds out of Ukraine.
Facebook took down 120 pages, 76 Facebook accounts, seven Instagram accounts, a pair of Facebook events, and one group “for engaging in domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic behavior in Iraq,” according to the post.
The offending accounts posted content including celebrations of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, criticisms of Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq, as well as celebrations of the first battle of Fallujah against U.S. Marines in Iraq.
Deleted posts still available in search engine caches showed one of the accounts, “Bird of Peace,” celebrated “martyrs” of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party and former Saddam-era general turned insurgent leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
The Iraq-focused Facebook pages boasted 1.6 million followers. A Facebook group identified as part of the campaign had nearly 340,000 members. The total ad spend was less than $1,600.
According to Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, accounts associated with the campaign “typically posted about domestic political and societal issues such as religion, various public figures including Saddam Hussein, the state of the military under the Saddam rule, tensions with Iran, the U.S. military action in Iraq, Iranian-backed militia operating in Iraq and Kurdish-Iraqi politics.”
The company noted that it found the accounts as part of an investigation into the region.