Iran will likely continue using social media to target assets in the United States to gain access to information sources and promote disinformation campaigns. Iranian intelligence services use social engineering to target those within the US Government and key private-sector areas to collect intelligence and gain access to associated accounts and networks.
On May 28, Facebook and Twitter announced they disabled a disinformation campaign that appeared to originate in Iran and was active months before the 2018 midterm elections, all in an apparent effort to promote Iranian interests. Some of the disabled accounts appeared to target their propaganda at specific journalists, policymakers, dissidents, and other influential US figures. Twitter and Facebook announced that they removed numerous accounts originating in Iran that engaged in “coordinated” inauthentic behavior.
The US Department of State designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization on April 15. The following day, Instagram deactivated the accounts of several IRGC commanders and temporarily suspended the account for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The IRGC is an Iranian government agency tasked with defending the regime against internal and external threats, utilizing secret police methods against opponents in Iran and terrorist tactics against enemies abroad.
In February, the FBI announced charges of espionage against a former US Air Force Intelligence Specialist, Monica Witt, on behalf of Iran along with four Iranians in a cyber campaign targeting US intelligence personnel. The four individuals known as the “Cyber Conspirators” targeted former colleagues of Witt and used fictitious and impostor social media accounts, seeking to gain access to the targets’ computers and networks. All the individuals conducted this activity on behalf of the IRGC, and federal arrests warrants were issued after the indictment.