Facebook Busts Iranian Dissident Group’s Elaborate Troll Farm Operation

Facebook says it busted a troll farm run by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq—a dissident Iranian group which lobbies for the overthrow of Iran’s revolutionary government—that used artificial intelligence-generated fake faces to populate sham accounts.

The social media company linked the troll farm, based alongside the MEK’s headquarters in Albania, to 300 different assets on Facebook’s platform, including pages, groups and accounts engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior.

The Mujahideen-e-Khalq, which began as a Marxist revolutionary organization, opposed Iran’s monarchy in the 1970s and fought alongside the IRGC to overthrow the Shah of Iran. After the revolution, the IRGC cracked down on the MEK and the group sought refuge in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The U.S. designated the group as a terrorist organization in 1997 but the Obama administration removed the designation in 2012.

Since then, the group has spent millions of dollars cultivating allies in the U.S. and advocating for regime change in Iran. It’s also spent big on speaking fees for high profile Democratic and Republican heavyweights it considers allies, including Rudy Giuliani, former Vermont governor and DNC chair Howard Dean, and former Trump national security advisor John Bolton.

The group is known for its strict control of members. A 2005 study by Human Rights Watch based on interviews with MEK dissidents included testimonies about “abuses ranging from detention and persecution of ordinary members wishing to leave the organization, to lengthy solitary confinements, severe beatings, and torture of dissident members.”

In a 2009 study, RAND researchers alleged that the group displayed a number of “cult characteristics,” including “intense ideological exploitation and isolation,” “sexual control,” “emotional isolation,” and other such tactics.

While the U.S. has accounted for much of the MEK’s lobbying focus, the troll farm it ran was apparently focused more on Iranian and diaspora audiences. Facebook says the majority of posts by the troll farm were in Farsi with a smaller number in Arabic and English.

Read the complete article at: The Daily Beast

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