As an unstoppable ceasefire is held in Israel-Palestine, digital terror will not slow down. Online hatred, harassment, and coordination of physical violence have sprung up on social media channels. An Israeli group fighting disinformation and hatred is not quick enough to act.
From its offices in Israel, FakeReporter sends reports of online threats to Israeli authorities, hoping to prevent them from becoming a reality. The watchdog group of nearly 10 online researchers, activists, and investigators mostly volunteers digging up false information and fake accounts online. They have previously focused on state -sponsored disinformation and are shocked by the growing digital hatred within Israel.
“We’re a disinformation watchdog group so in a way, we’re not prepared for this situation,” Executive Director Achiya Schatz told BuzzFeed News.
Online hate has only gotten its share of ongoing violence. In the course of the fight, Israel rockets killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. Thirteen men of Israel, including two children, killed by Hamas-fired rockets. A firefight was agreed on May 21.
But for FakeReporter, the conflict made it clear that internal divisions in Israeli society led to online hatred and physical violence. Their team worked full days and many nights to catalog the violent messages, most of which were filled in through the website. Another organization, Democratic Bloc, help with research.
“Now we are on a mission to save lives.”
“We are still on a mission to save lives,” Schatz said.
For the past two weeks, they have noticed that hate speech has been translated into street violence. They track nearly 100 WhatsApp and Telegram channels, most of them in Hebrew. There is violence all over Israel, according to Schatz, including against Jewish residents, but right -wing Israeli extremists are more organized.
“The ground is ready for such violence, because I think the trend of racism in Israel has been going on for years,” Schatz said.
On May 12 in Bat Yam, a seaside town south of Tel Aviv, a fierce mob attacked a man. FakeReporter watched as it happened on the Telegram channels they tracked and broadcast live on television as the state broadcaster explained what it was. called a lynching. The victim was about to spend his night on the beach when someone looked out the window of his car as it was stuck in traffic and asked him if he was an Arab. When he said yes, he was dragged out of his car and beaten, while people shouted and videotaped the incident on their phones.
The father of four survived but ended up in hospital and was seriously injured. “I’m going to the beach [for] rest in time. I didn’t know I would come back like this to my children, ”the victim said told Channel 12 News, a popular news station in Israel. “Why should I be to blame? What did I do to make it worthwhile? Is it my fault that I was born Arab? ”
Ori Kol, cofounder of FakeReporter, watched the scene unfold on television and Telegram. “We tried to see what they were doing, because they were uploading photos of what they saw, uploading photos of the violence to the Telegram groups.”
Schatz said FakeReporter submitted Israeli police reports before the attack, day in, and the next day, showing extremists threatening to defeat people in Bat Yam. The messages seen by the guard group are very clear: “Here I invite you to take part in a series of fights with the Arabs that will take place tonight at 6 pm on the Bat Yam promenade. Bring the appropriate tools, knives, swords , guns, rocks, wooden planks, cars with bull bars, ”said one.
Despite their warning, FakeReporter researchers can only look at the violence that has taken place. “Nothing was sent to the ground,” Schatz said. “And a terrible thing happened.”
In the days after Israel expelled Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and the attack on the al-Aqsa mosque, extremists cheered about the weapons and gave advice on where to get them across the channels. in Telegram and WhatsApp. They posted photos of knives, guns, and batons, in line with screenshots seen on BuzzFeed News, as well as posting racist slurs, encouragement, misinformation, and coordination when and where to meet.
“It’s really a deadly street situation.”
Kol, who tracked down several groups, said, “This street situation is really dead.”
Spreading the tension is right -wing influences like Yair Netanyahu, the son of the Israeli prime minister. With more than 130,000 Twitter followers, a Telegram channel added 1,500 followers over the past two weeks, and a podcast, he has taken on a role in Israel similar to what Donald Trump Jr did. in the United States: the rallying of his father’s online supporters and the spread of hatred against their opponents.
After Israeli forces bombed a 12 -story building in Gaza claimed by the Israeli military to contain “Hamas military intelligence assets“(this did not respond of U.S. officials asking for proof), destroying AP and Al Jazeera offices and posts, Yair Netanyahu escalated his attacks on the media. (In a statement after the incident, the AP SAYS there is no “indication that Hamas is in the building or active in the building.”)
on May 19, he tweeted a cartoon showing a crowd of people gathered around a water cooler, with someone with a rocket launcher standing between them. “Sheila works with Al Jazeera and I work with the Associated Press,” said the woman of the man with the rocket launcher. “How are you?”
Yair Netanyahu also ended up writing letters from prominent American right -wing influencers, including Ben Shapiro, Dinesh D’Souza, and Andy Ngo, and news outlets such as Breitbart and Federalist.
“Yair Netanyahu is using his social media platform to provide an independent voice for the millions of Israeli conservatives marginalized by the Israeli-building media, who are biased against the right wing,” a family spokesman said. told BuzzFeed News. Your article marking his followers as ‘far right’ is a perfect example of media distortions in a province that is mostly on the right. And your tried -and -true work on Yair just shows why independent voices like him are necessary. ”
On May 15, the same day as the AP and Al Jazeera bombings, Yair Netanyahu tweeted a call for a protest in front of the home of media executive Avi Weiss. The prime minister’s son posted flyers calling for protests outside media offices saying, “We are no longer talking about anti-zionist media laundering.”
The protest was canceled due to the subsequent outcry received, but FakeReporter noticed people sharing screenshots of Yair Netanyahu’s tweets. At least once, two people discussed in the video whether it would be better to go to the executive office or media offices. On Sunday, Yair Netanyahu also called for protests against members of the media.
In recent days, members of the Israeli media have fallen victim to violence. Four reporters were attacked, according to the Jerusalem Post, including one from a public broadcaster filming the destruction of Bat Yam.
“When we Arabs are done we will consume the media,” as in a message in a Telegram chat. Some called for the demolition of the studios and called Channel 12 “Al Jazeera in Hebrew,” a term popularized by Yair Netanyahu that means sympathy for Hamas.
Yair’s messages have always been fodder for Israel’s right -wing groups, according to Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler, head of the Media Reform Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, who studies Israel social media and consulted with FakeReporter.
“I was worried, I was so scared,” he told BuzzFeed News. “Because I think to myself this is a very dangerous whistle to the dog and to right -wing extremists and right -wing activists, they really understand the messages that appear on Twitter. They take them on WhatsApp or in the Telegram and then suddenly they became a call to action. “
“His main contribution that we’ve seen with Telegram groups has been in the past few days where the right -wingers of these groups have really started pointing out the media for what they see as unpatriotic, treacherous. [behavior], ”According to Col.
The personal phone number of a well-known Channel 12 reporter and anchor, Dana Weiss, was posted by groups along with messages such as “congratulations on a good job,” according to Col. Other texts call him “a spokesman for Jihad” and surround it with bad photo images of him wearing a hijab. As a result, he received numerous violent threats, including death threats.
Kol sees online hatred leading to offline rape on a regular basis.
“Violence will start online and move to the streets.”
“Violence starts online and moves to the streets,” he said. “It’s something we’ve seen in our work with FakeReporter as the key lesson we’re trying to pass on. And the business is thriving for those inspired by online lynchings, sadly, around the world.”