Google announced that it had deleted 39 YouTube channels with 13,466 total U.S. views on Thursday, in response to a suspected attempt by an arm of Iran's government to infiltrate the U.S. According to the report on suspected Iranian influence, the accounts spread anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian propaganda, along with fake news to support the Iran nuclear deal.
"For the last two months, Google and Jigsaw have worked closely with FireEye on the influence operation linked to Iran that FireEye identified this week," Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president of global affairs, announced in a blog post.
According to Walker, FireEye identified three suspicious Gmail accounts, three YouTube channels, and three Google+ accounts, which were swiftly disabled. But the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) infiltration efforts proved larger than this. The Google SVP went on to note that his company "identified and terminated a number of accounts liked to the IRIB organization that disguised their connection to this effort, including while sharing English-language political content in the U.S."
This larger group included 39 YouTube channels with 13,466 total U.S. views, 6 blogs on Blogger, and 13 Google+ accounts.
Walker did not mention the specific issues peddled by this Iran influence operation, however.
The FireEye report "identified a suspected influence operation that appears to originate from Iran aimed at audiences in the U.S., U.K., Latin America, and the Middle East. This operation is leveraging a network of inauthentic news sites and clusters of associated accounts across multiple social media platforms to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests."
Which political narratives support Iran? FireEye named a few: "anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA)."
While FireEye focused on the broader narrative - this "demonstrates that actors beyond Russia continue to engage in and experiment with online, social media-driven influence operations to shape political discourse" - the specific issues are important to note.
Google's SVP Walker reported updating "U.S. lawmakers and law enforcement about the results of our investigation, including its relation to political content in the United States." None of that "political content" was included in his blog post, even though it would prove quite important for average Americans to know about. PJ Media had to read the FireEye report to learn that Iran's cyber attempts pushed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian, and pro-nuclear deal propaganda.
Walker's Google blog post did mention "technical research" that identified ties between these accounts and the IRIB, including: "Technical data associated with these actors is strongly linked to the official IRIB IP address space; Domain ownership information about these actors is strongly linked to IRIB account information; Account metadata and subscriber information associated with these actors is strongly linked to the corresponding information associated with the IRIS, indicating common ownership and control."