Iran-Backed Iraqi Shi'ite Cyber Team Exploits Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Content Reporting Policies, Targets Accounts Of Activists, Journalists, Politicians

December 7, 2020

The past few months have witnessed a surge in activity on several Telegram channels affiliated with Iran-backed groups in Iraq, including the channel of an Iran-backed Shi'ite cyber team. The team, which appears to be linked to another group, targets social media accounts belonging to Iraqi activists who oppose Iran-backed militias in Iraq, including journalists and researchers based outside the country. The group exploits the platforms' user reporting functionalities, which are intended to allow users to report violations of user policies set by social media companies. Reporting user content violations often leads to the suspension of the account.

Over the past month, the team's Telegram channel has openly claimed responsibility for getting more than 1,000 social media accounts suspended for posting content that it deems "insulting" to Shi'ite factions. The team states that it also works to retrieve accounts affiliated with, or supporting, these factions, which have been suspended by social media platforms.

  1. team's Telegram channel, created in January 2020, shared its first post on January 29. It stated that after reporting content posted on Facebook by an Iraqi satirical television show, the show's account was removed.

Team activities, which frequently involve reporting Twitter accounts belonging to opponents, are often announced on the team's Telegram channel and proclaimed to be part of an operation that pays tribute to a "martyr," a supporter or member of the Shi'ite factions. The channel posts screenshots showing Twitter's confirmation that targeted accounts have been suspended for violating the company's policies.

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