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Suspected Iranian Disinformation Unit Created Fake Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Network to Sow Discord in Israel

February 10th, 2022 14:31

British media is report­ing that a sus­pect­ed Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion unit cre­at­ed a net­work on Face­book that attempt­ed to stoke anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment and inter­nal dis­con­tent in Israel. The net­work did this by pos­ing as ultra-Ortho­dox Jews who sup­port­ed extreme right-wing groups. Accord­ing to the BBC report:

Feb­ru­ary 3, 2022: A sus­pect­ed Iran­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion unit ran an elab­o­rate net­work on Face­book tar­get­ing nation­al­ist and ultra-reli­gious Jews in Israel in an attempt to stoke divi­sion and inflame ten­sions with Pales­tini­ans, accord­ing to research shared exclu­sive­ly with the BBC. The alleged for­eign inter­fer­ence cam­paign ran across mul­ti­ple social media plat­forms pos­ing as an ultra-Ortho­dox Jew­ish news group sup­port­ive of extreme right-wing groups.Its goal was to help fuel “reli­gious war” by ampli­fy­ing “fear, hatred and chaos”, accord­ing to the Israeli dis­in­for­ma­tion watch­dog Fak­eRe­porter, which uncov­ered the group’s sus­pect­ed Iran­ian origin.It is the lat­est sign of a grow­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion bat­tle­ground on social media and mes­sag­ing apps in Israel. The net­work became active after last year’s flare-up in sec­tar­i­an vio­lence in the country.In one case, the net­work repost­ed a video of a con­fronta­tion between a far-right MP, who was car­ry­ing a gun, and a Pales­tin­ian car park­ing atten­dant, adding the com­ment: “It’s a shame he did­n’t give him one in the head.“Facebook and Twit­ter deac­ti­vat­ed the group’s pages and asso­ci­at­ed pro­files after being approached by Fak­eRe­porter. The net­work remains active on the mes­sag­ing chan­nel Telegram.

Read the rest here.

The arti­cle fur­ther men­tions that the group:

  • Post­ed anti-gov­ern­ment and anti-Arab content
  • Backed an ultra­na­tion­al­ist Israeli MP who was part of a racist movement
  • Encour­aged anti-police sen­ti­ment among the ultra-Ortho­dox Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, many of whom dis­trust law enforce­ment and the state
  • Made exten­sive efforts to look gen­uine, such as using the iden­ti­ty of a deceased ultra-reli­gious man and cre­at­ing a Face­book page for a fic­ti­tious bak­ery in an ultra-Ortho­dox town

The Iran­ian embassy did not respond to the BBC’s requests for comments.