University researchers recently uncovered an Iran-linked fake news campaign spreading propaganda in Canada.
The campaign was first allegedly discovered by students at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, who detailed their findings in a recent report.
The campaign, dubbed Endless Mayfly, is made up of a complex network of inauthentic websites and online personas. According to Citizen Lab, “Mayfly is an Iran-aligned network of inauthentic personas and social media accounts that spreads falsehoods and amplifies narratives critical of Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Israel.”
The online warriors who orchestrate Mayfly rely on some classic disinformation tactics, many not so dissimilar to those employed by the Russian troll armies during the last U.S. presidential election. First, “hacktivists” create and publish divisive content on websites that impersonate legitimate media outlets. They wait for this content to gain traction on social media and other sites, and then delete their original content to hide their own involvement. What was particularly fascinating about Citizen Lab’s findings was that cases were identified in which “Endless Mayfly content led to incorrect media reporting and caused confusion among journalists, and accusations of intentional wrongdoing.”
While Citizen Lab cannot prove definitively Iran’s involvement, the pattern of scores of Iranian media domains referencing and disseminating content from the Mayfly network is, to put it lightly, rather suspicious.
Iran has being trying its hand at information war for quite a while; however, this has usually been limited to the area of cyber attack. If even part of Citizen Lab’s assertions prove to be accurate, it would mean the emergence of a brand new tactic in Iran’s efforts against its Western enemies.