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Iranian Disinformation Campaign Targets Israeli Activists On Private Communication Apps

July 14th, 2021 16:47

US media is report­ing on an Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign tar­get­ing Israeli activists on pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion apps such as What­sApp, Telegram and oth­er encrypt­ed chat apps. Accord­ing to a New York Times arti­cle:

June 30, 2021 On June 13, as Ben­jamin Netanyahu end­ed his decade-long run as Israel’s prime min­is­ter, a Telegram chan­nel ded­i­cat­ed to protest­ing him hummed with cel­e­bra­tion.  “And now prison, go to prison,” read a short mes­sage below a pho­to­shopped image of Mr. Netanyahu behind bars. The 7,000 fol­low­ers of the Telegram chan­nel quick­ly spread the mes­sage to oth­er groups and social media apps.  The chan­nel and the mes­sage were secret­ly part of an Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign, accord­ing to Israeli dis­in­for­ma­tion researchers. Over sev­er­al months, Iran­ian agents had infil­trat­ed small What­sApp groups, Telegram chan­nels and mes­sag­ing apps that Israeli activists used for inti­mate dis­cus­sions among dozens to thou­sands of people.

Read the rest here.

The arti­cle notes that the Iran­ian oper­a­tion is one of the first exam­ples of minia­tur­ized dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns focus­ing on small­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion apps instead of broad audi­ences on Face­book or Twit­ter in order to stay under the radar of tech companies.

The cam­paign was first dis­cov­ered by the Israeli dis­in­for­ma­tion watch­dog Fak­eRe­porter which pub­lished an exten­sive report on Iran’s cross-plat­form influ­ence operation.

Recent GIOR cov­er­age of Iran­ian social media influ­ence oper­a­tions has included:

  • In July, we report­ed that Iran is inten­si­fy­ing its dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign on social media to spread dis­cord and anti-Semit­ic tropes in the US.
  • In June, we report­ed that Ger­man author­i­ties are prepar­ing against for­eign influ­ence oper­a­tions ahead of fed­er­al elec­tions, hav­ing iden­ti­fied Iran as a “prin­ci­pal actor” car­ry­ing out cyber attacks against Germany.
  • In April, we report­ed that Face­book removed a net­work of Iran­ian fake accounts tar­get­ing Israel, the UK, Iraq, and Afghanistan for vio­lat­ing its pol­i­cy against for­eign interference.