- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2018

Reddit, one of the world’s most popular websites, discovered scores of accounts linked to a suspected influence operation recently reported to be covertly promoting pro-Iranian political narratives on Facebook and Twitter, Reddit’s chief technology officer said Friday.

The same group accused last month of exploiting social media services by secretly promoting Iranian political interests also operated over 100 accounts on Reddit, said Christopher Slowe.

“Reddit uncovered 143 accounts believed to be connected to the particular influence group identified by FireEye,” the Silicon Valley-based security firm that warned of the group’s activities in a report released late last month, Mr. Slowe wrote on Reddit.

“This group focused on steering the narrative around subjects important to Iran, including criticism of US policies in the Middle East and negative sentiment toward Saudi Arabia and Israel,” as well as discussions on topics regarding both Syria and the Islamic State terrorist group, said Mr. Slowe.

More than a third of the accounts identified by Reddit had been banned prior to publication of FireEye’s report, and around 60 percent were relatively dormant, compared to active Reddit users, he wrote in the post.

“While the overall influence of these accounts was still low, some of them were able to gain more traction. They typically did this by posting real, reputable news articles that happened to align with Iran’s preferred political narrative — for example, reports publicizing civilian deaths in Yemen. These articles would often be posted to far-left or far-right political communities whose critical views of US involvement in the Middle East formed an environment that was receptive to the articles,” Mr. Slowe wrote.

“We believe this type of interference will increase in frequency, scope and complexity,” Mr. Slowe added. “Our actions against these threats may not always be immediately visible to you, but this is a battle we have been fighting, and will continue to fight for the foreseeable future.”

FireEye announced in an Aug. 21 blog post that its threat researchers discovered evidence of a suspected influence operation appearing to originate from Iran and operating across multiple social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter separately announced in posts of their own that hundreds of accounts had been suspended from either platform in response to suspicious activity of Iranian origin.

Security researchers and intelligence experts previously concluded that Russian state-sponsored social media users weaponized Facebook, Twitter and other platforms during the 2016 U.S. presidential race to interfere in the election on Moscow’s behalf. Facebook’s chief operating officer and Twitter’s chief executive are both scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week during a hearing on “social media companies’ responses to foreign influence operations.”

Reddit is currently the fifth most popular website in the U.S. and 15th worldwide, according to Alexa, the Amazon-owned traffic analytics service.

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