Iranian disinformation effort fell short to stay under Big Tech’s radar

“There are some of the more frequent and well-resourced groups of Iranian-based bullies who are attempting to work online, including on our platform,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Researchers at FakeReporter found that many of the images and memes used by Iranians came from Iranian sites, or could be linked back to Facebook and Twitter accounts with previous links to Iran. While researchers believe that many countries are doing so, a recent investigation was the first to detail how the government could work its way into small, online community groups and to show that encrypted apps But how do propaganda campaigns operate?

US intelligence agencies are concerned that the same could happen in the United States. Last week, the Justice Department Said it was blocking access Up to three dozen websites linked to Iran’s propaganda efforts. A US intelligence official told The Times that officials were closely monitoring messaging groups on Telegram, WhatsApp and other apps for Iranian propaganda.

The intelligence official said the app is an ideal means for Iran to enter a closed group of people with similar attitudes and spread divisive and extremist messages, which was not authorized to give interviews and spoke on condition of anonymity. . They were sharing memes, for example, that compared Mr Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler – an offensive comparison that may put some people into more extreme views and make others think that his online groups There have been too many.

“In these closed messaging groups, people trust each other and share more freely because it seems that they share similar politics, and that the app itself is safe and secure,” once said Israel. Lawyer Gonen Ben Itzak said. Worked for Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency. He was among dozens of Israelis who said Iranian efforts had targeted them.

Those who inadvertently communicated with the Iranians said the pandemic and the turmoil in Israeli politics made them particularly vulnerable to propaganda.

To avoid large crowds during the pandemic, many Israelis participated in local protests For their city, town or even their block. To plan for them, Israelis created neighborhood groups on WhatsApp, Telegram and other social media platforms. Anyone can join the groups. New members often connect by clicking on a link shared by a friend or by clicking on a link posted on a public website. While some groups had a few dozen members, others had more than 10,000.

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