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Iranian Social Media Campaign Promoted Anti-Israel Hashtags During Latest Israel-Hamas Conflict

August 31st, 2021 13:22

The DFR­Lab, a US think tank, report­ed last month that a group of Iran­ian accounts launched a social media cam­paign against Israel dur­ing the 2021 Israel-Hamas con­flict pro­mot­ing the hash­tag #COVID1948 that trend­ed world­wide. Accord­ing to the DFR­Lab report:

July 1, 2021 In April 2020, a set of Iran­ian accounts began pro­mot­ing the anti-Israel hash­tag #COVID1948. #COVID1948 con­nects the found­ing of the state of Israel to the nov­el coro­n­avirus, imply­ing that Israel has been far worse for the world than the cur­rent COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. As ini­tial­ly report­ed by the Stan­ford Inter­net Obser­va­to­ry, after attain­ing a peak in May 2020, the hash­tag large­ly fell into dis­use. How­ev­er, in the wake of the 11-day 2021 Israel-Hamas war, #COVID1948 was pro­mot­ed vig­or­ous­ly by a group of Iran­ian accounts, gained renewed pop­u­lar­i­ty, and trend­ed through­out the world, includ­ing the Unit­ed States. […] The renewed glob­al atten­tion on Israel dur­ing the Israeli-Hamas war, caused #Covid1948 to trend on Twit­ter in the Unit­ed States. Lat­er in June 2021, many of these same accounts explic­it­ly coor­di­nat­ed to pro­mote and trend anoth­er hash­tag, #USSLib­er­ty. This hash­tag seeks to rehash the Israeli bomb­ing of the USS Lib­er­ty dur­ing the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War in 1967. Alto­geth­er, the DFR­Lab found that these pro-Iran­ian accounts coor­di­nat­ed togeth­er in May and June to pro­mote ani­mus and anti-Israel sentiment.

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Iran is one of the most active influ­ence actors in its use of hack­ers and oth­er cyber oper­a­tions. The coun­try also employs a large net­work of affil­i­at­ed groups and orga­ni­za­tions such as the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Eng­land. Iran also funds PressTV, a glob­al media oper­a­tion in sup­port of its goals. Recent GIOR cov­er­age of Iran­ian cyber cam­paigns has included:

  • In July, we report­ed on an Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign tar­get­ing Israeli activists on pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion apps such as What­sApp, Telegram, and oth­er encrypt­ed chat apps.
  • In July, we report­ed on an Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign on social media spread­ing dis­cord and anti-Semit­ic tropes in the US.
  • In April, we report­ed that Face­book removed a net­work of Iran­ian fake accounts tar­get­ing Israel, the UK, Iraq, and Afghanistan.