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Google terminates ‘Iran, Russia-linked’ accounts

After Twitter and Facebook, Google says it has terminated some accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia in order to fight “misinformation.”

The company said it had blocked 39 YouTube channels as well as disabling 13 accounts at its Google+ social network and six accounts at Blogger.

“We identified and terminated a number of accounts linked to the IRIB organization that had disguised their connection to this effort,” GoogleVice President Kent Walker said in a statement on Thursday. He was referring to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

“Actors engaged in this type of influence operation violate our policies, and we swiftly remove such content from our services and terminate these actors’ accounts,” he added.

“In addition to the intelligence we received from FireEye, our teams have investigated a broader range of suspicious actors linked to Iran who have engaged in this effort,” the company said, referring to an alleged cybersecurity firm, on whose tip it had started the crackdown.

Alleged evidence included phone numbers, website registration information, and promotion of content “in synch with Iranian political interests,” AFP cited the company as saying.

Separately, Google said it had started confronting “actors linked to” the Russia-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA), and said it had terminated Youtube and Blogger accounts after “watching” IRA activities, the agency said.

Google claimed that the “misinformation” campaign was seeking to “shape political discourse.”

On Tuesday, American social media giant Facebook targeted hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to the countries under the similar pretext of fighting “misinformation.”

The targets were identified as “networks of accounts misleading people about what they were doing,” Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said.

Among the accounts was one belonging to the Quest 4 Truth (Q4T) Iranian media organization, which promotes Islamic values.

Facebook said it had worked closely with law enforcement authorities in both the US and the UK over the investigation, and had also briefed the US Treasury Department and State Department about the move.

In a simultaneous move, Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) also acted on FireEye’s claims and removed hundreds of accounts said to be tied to Iranian “actors,” which are said to be promoting Iran’s geopolitical agenda.

Reacting to the move by Facebook, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said “Such claims are ridiculous and are part and parcel of US public calls for regime change in Iran, and are an abuse of social media platforms.”

The Kremlin also rejected Facebook’s accusations. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow did not understand the basis for such statements and that they looked like “carbon copies” of previous allegations that Moscow had denied, Reuters reported.

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