At the end of April, Facebook published a report detailing over 50 networks which were removed from the platform due to 'coordinated inauthentic behavior' (CIB). In particular, over 500 pages, groups, and accounts linked to IRIB, the Iranian state broadcaster, were removed. Additionally, Graphika, an independent social network analysis company which was allowed to verify Facebook's findings, published their own report on Iranian CIB, in which they detail some of the particular events which the Iranian state broadcaster apparently sought to influence.

The assets posted about a wide range of themes, from perennial Iranian concerns, such as the country’s enmity with Israel and Saudi Arabia, to more surprising and momentary topics, such as the Occupy Movement of 2012 and the Scottish independence referendum of 2014.


The Iranian network tried one final piece of political targeting in the West in late 2013 and early 2014. This revolved around an account called Sara Bill that also posted about the Occupy movement, and a single page called The Scotsman Cartoon, most likely named to resemble leading Scottish daily The Scotsman. The page offered a series of cartoons in a wide range of visual styles but on a common theme: Scotland’s need for independence. Many of the cartoons attacked then-Prime Minister David Cameron, portraying him as the embodiment of English oppression.

The report does note that this was fairly small-scale compared to the rest of the findings, and notes that this behaviour was not repeated. Is there any particular reason why Iran would want to influence Scotland towards independence, or is this more likely to have been used as an experiment or way of testing their ability to influence public sentiment?

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    Note that your title question and final body question are pretty different. The former is pretty trivial to answer with an educated guess (it benefits Iran because a Scottish secession hurts the UK, duh); the latter much less so, i.e. it would require a fair bit of speculation what was the main goal of that adventure given the pitiful resources/results. Maybe it was just some guy's in the Iranian intelligence pet project, and he got canned/reassigned after that etc. Maybe they decided to play nice with the EU for JCPOA, etc. – Fizz May 7 at 19:56
  • I doubt there will be a lot of foreign effort to establish why Iran is/was erratic in such attempts given their relative insignifcance. – Fizz May 7 at 20:00

In The Spectator Stephen Daisley argues that Iran supported Scotish independence because it would undermine the UK as a global power.

Tehran grasps that independence would distract the UK internally and undermine its global standing. London would have to endure long negotiations with Edinburgh, establish new borders and customs arrangements, and build a naval base in England capable of housing Trident and transfer the submarines there, all while touring the world touting the UK as a stable investment in trade talks. The interruption in the nuclear deterrent alone would be humiliating for Britain’s strategic position and might even raise questions about its permanent membership of the Security Council. This is without considering the turbo charge Scottish independence would give to Welsh nationalism and Irish unification.

As a bit of wider context for this, I will mention that direct diplomatic ties between the UK and Iran were suspended after Iranian protestors attacked the UK embassy in 2011, and were only resumed in early 2014. (EDIT: There is also a long history of anti-British sentiment in Iran going back to the 19th century.)

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    I would add that because of their history, a lot of Iranians have a rather exaggerated view of the UK's status as a global player. – richardb May 7 at 18:27

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