With the uneasy ceasefire taking root in Israel and Palestine, digital terrorism has not slowed down. The coordination of online hatred, harassment and physical violence has sprouted in social media channels. An Israeli group fighting disinformation and hatred is not working fast enough.
FakeReporter has been sending reports on online threats to Israeli authorities from its Israeli office, hoping to prevent them from becoming a reality. The supervisory team, composed of about 10 researchers, activists, and online investigators, is mainly volunteers who dig out false information and fake accounts on the Internet. They had previously focused on disinformation supported by the state, but were caught off guard by the growth of digital hatred in Israel.
“We are a disinformation monitoring organization, so to some extent, we are not prepared for this situation,” executive director Achiya Schatz told BuzzFeed News.
Online hatred captures only part of the ongoing violence.During the battle, Israeli rockets Killed 248 Palestinians, Including 66 children. Thirteen people in Israel, including two children, Was killed A rocket fired by Hamas. A ceasefire agreement was reached on May 21.
But for FakeReporter, this conflict clearly shows that disagreements within Israeli society have led to online hatred and physical violence. Their team worked day and night to catalog violent information, many of which were crowdsourced through their website. Another organization, Democracy Group, Help research.
“Now we have the mission of saving lives.”
“Our mission now is to save lives,” Schatz said.
In the past two weeks, they have witnessed the transformation of hate speech into street violence. They are monitoring nearly 100 WhatsApp and Telegram channels, most of which are in Hebrew. Shatz said that violent incidents have occurred throughout Israel, including violence against Jewish residents, but far-right Israeli extremists are more organized.
“The ground is ready for this kind of violence, because I think the racist trend in Israel has been on the rise for many years,” Schatz said.
On May 12, in Bat Yam, a seaside town south of Tel Aviv, A vicious mob attacked a man. FakeReporter watched the incident on the Telegram channel they monitored and broadcast it live on TV because the national broadcaster told its content Called lynching. victim On the way to the beach to spend the evening, a man looked at him from the car window in a traffic jam and asked if he was Arab. When he said yes, he was dragged out of the car and beaten. People yelled on their mobile phones and filmed the incident.
The father of four survived, but was eventually hospitalized and seriously injured. “I’m going to the beach [for] Break time.I didn’t know I would treat my child like this,” the victim Tell Channel 12 News, Israel’s top news station. “Why blame me? What did I do to be worthy of this? Is it my fault that I was born in Arabia?”
Ori Kol, the co-founder of FakeReporter, saw this scene on TV and Telegram. “We tried to see what they were doing because they were uploading photos of what they saw, uploading violent photos to the Telegram group.”
Shatz said that FakeReporter submitted reports to the Israeli police before the attack, on the day of the attack, and the day after the attack, showing that extremists threatened to beat people in Bat Yam. The message seen by the watchdog team is clear: “I hereby invite you to participate in the mass fight against the Arabs that will be held at the Bat Yam promenade at 6 pm today. Bring suitable equipment, knives, swords, guns, etc. Stones, planks, cars with bullpens,” said one.
Despite the warning, FakeReporter researchers can only watch the violence happen. “No one was sent to the ground,” Schatz said. “Then something terrible happened.”
In the days after Israel expelled Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah’s East Jerusalem community and attacked the Al-Aqsa Mosque, extremists gloated with weapons and made recommendations on where to obtain weapons from Telegram and WhatsApp channels . According to the screenshots seen by BuzzFeed News, they posted photos of knives, guns and truncheons, and posted racist slander, incitement, false information, and coordination on when and where to meet.
“There is really a deadly atmosphere in the street.”
Cole, who monitors some groups, said: “The atmosphere on the street is really deadly.”
Exacerbating tensions are right-wing influencers, such as Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister.Telegram channel with over 130,000 followers on Twitter 1,500 followers added In the past two weeks, in a podcast, he played a role in Israel similar to that of Donald Trump Jr. in the United States: uniting his father’s online supporters and spreading hatred against their opponents.
After the Israeli army bombed a 12-story building in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military claimed that the building contained “Hamas military intelligence assets“(It no respond U.S. officials requested evidence) and destroyed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera’s offices and residences. Yair Netanyahu intensified its attacks on the media. (In a statement after the incident, the Associated Press Say “There is no indication that Hamas is in or active in the building.”)
on May 19, He posted a cartoon on Twitter, showing a group of people gathered around a drinking fountain, standing between them holding a rocket launcher. “Sheila works for Al Jazeera and I work for the Associated Press,” the woman said to the man with the rocket launcher. “How about you?”
Yair Netanyahu also reposted reports from American right-wing influencers, including Ben Shapiro, Dinesh D’Souza and Andy Ngo, as well as news media such as Breitbart and Federalist.
“Yair Netanyahu uses his social media platform to provide an independent voice to millions of Israeli conservatives who have been marginalized by Israeli establishment media, which are highly prejudiced against the right,” a spokesperson for the family told BuzzFeed News. “Your article labelled his followers as’extreme right’. This is a perfect example of this kind of media distortion in a right-wing majority county. And you tried to slander Yair, which can only explain why it is like His independent voice is necessary.”
On May 15, the same day as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera building bombings, Yair Netanyahu tweeted in front of the house of media director Avi Weiss calling for protest. The prime minister’s son then posted a leaflet calling for protest outside the media office, which read: “We will no longer brainwash the media against Zionism.”
The protest was cancelled due to subsequent strong protests, but FakeReporter noticed that people shared screenshots of Yair Netanyahu’s tweets. In at least one example, it is better for two people to go to the executive house or the media office to discuss via video. On Sunday, Netanyahu again called for protests against members of the media.
In recent days, members of the Israeli media have become victims of violence. Four reporters were attacked, According to the Jerusalem Post, Including the public broadcaster that broadcasts the siege of Bat Yam.
“When we finish fucking Arabs, we will go to the fucking media,” said a message in the telegram chat. Others called for the destruction of the studio and called Channel 12 “Al Jazeera’s Hebrew”, a term popularized by Netanyahu that implies sympathy for Hamas.
Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler, head of the media reform project of the Israel Democracy Institute, said that Yair’s information is usually the material of Israeli far-right groups. He studies Israeli social media and consults FakeReporter.
“I am worried, I am afraid,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Because I think this is a very subtle dog whistle, right-wing extremists and right-wing activists, they fully understand the messages that appear on Twitter. They bring them to WhatsApp or Telegram, and then suddenly they become calls to action. “
“We see that his main contribution to these Telegram groups is that in the past few days, right-wingers in these groups have really begun to criticize the media because they think the media is not patriotic and treachery. [behavior],” Cole said.
Kol said that the personal phone number of Dana Weiss, a well-known reporter and anchor on Channel 12, was posted in the group along with messages such as “Congratulations on her doing well.” Other texts referred to her as the “Jihad spokesperson” and circulated heavily Photoshop-processed photos of her wearing a hijab.As a result, she Received dozens of threats of violence, Including death threats.
Kol has seen time and time again that online hatred leads to offline violence.
“The violence started online and then took to the streets.”
“The violence started online and then took to the streets,” he said. “This is what we saw in the work of FakeReporter, and this is the main lesson we have been trying to pass on. Unfortunately, the business of online lynching around the world is booming.”