A team of Iranian hackers attempted to influence the Scottish independence referendum and break up the UK, Facebook has revealed. 

The social network contributed to a report which found that "covert assets" linked to the Islamic Republic's state broadcaster ran fake pages which churned out memes, cartoons and propaganda in support of the Yes movement.

One of the fake pages was called "The Scotsman Cartoon" and was designed to resemble the newspaper. 

"The page offered a series of cartoons in a wide range of visual styles but on a common theme: Scotland’s need for independence," the analysis firm Graphika wrote in a report it produced on Facebook's behalf.

"Many of the cartoons attacked then-Prime Minister David Cameron, portraying him as the embodiment of English oppression."

The Herald:

The Herald:

However, the impact of the campaign was limited. 

"None of these posts achieved viral impact, measured in the number of likes, shares, or comments," the report continued. 

"Typical posts scored a few dozen reactions, sometimes a little over 100.

"This is not negligible, but it is a long way away from being an effort on the sort of scale that might have had an impact on the referendum.

"In March 2014, six months before the Scottish referendum, the cartoons page stopped posting, for unknown reasons."

Facebook recently took down 500 pages, groups, and accounts that it "attributed to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation".

In a statement, the social network said: “The individuals behind this network relied on a combination of authentic and fake accounts — some of which had been previously detected and disabled by our automated systems — to post in Groups, manage Pages, and drive people to off-platform sites.

"Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Corporation."

The IRIB's team is believed to have started operations before Russia's own Internet Research Agency launched its own infamous disinformation campaigns. 

"A particularly interesting feature of the network was the way it targeted the United States and United Kingdom with fake accounts, memes, and cartoons as early as 2012-2014," the report said.

"It particularly targeted the Republican primaries of early 2012, when it backed Ron Paul and attacked Mitt Romney, and the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, when it backed independence.

"These efforts do not appear to have yielded viral impact or any other measurable form of success, and the network abandoned them relatively quickly.

"Nevertheless, Facebook’s revelation is of historical interest: it provides a confirmed data point on attempted foreign interference in Western democratic exercises as far back as 2012, a full electoral cycle before the Russian interference of 2016."