A new report on disinformation by the Citizen Lab has revealed an Iran-aligned network of inauthentic personas and social media accounts that spread falsehoods and amplified narratives critical of Iran’s political opponents. Dubbed Endless Mayfly, the operators spoofed legitimate news outlets and disseminated fake stories through social media accounts. Once the articles had gained traction, they were deleted and the links were redirected to the domain being impersonated. This “ephemeral disinformation” technique provided the veneer of legitimacy while obscuring the origins of the fake narratives.
“They published false stories on cloned news websites, then amplified them with well-worn, negative tropes about Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.,” Citizen Lab research fellow Gabrielle Lim told the New York Times. She described the operation as “a sprawling disinformation assembly line” that had been around since at least 2016.
In addition to sewing disinformation among Twitter users, researchers identified three cases where an inauthentic article was mistakenly interpreted as legitimate news by mainstream media outlets, leading to propagation of false information, confusion, and public outcry. Reuters, Global News, Le Soir, and Haaretz were among the outlets who republished fraudulent stories.
New York Times coverage also revealed that the report raised the ire of Tehran, with a spokesperson for the Iranian mission to the United Nations stating: “These claims are nothing but part of the propaganda campaign against Iran.”