Cyber firm says three Iran-run sites are targeting Israelis with fake news
search

Cyber firm says three Iran-run sites are targeting Israelis with fake news

ClearSky also discovers fake Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts intended to push Tehran’s agenda and ‘influence public opinion’ in Israel

A screenshot of the homepage of the Tel Aviv Times news site, which Israeli firm CyberSky says is part of an Iranian 'worldwide disinformation infrastructure' (Screen capture via CyberSky)
A screenshot of the homepage of the Tel Aviv Times news site, which Israeli firm CyberSky says is part of an Iranian 'worldwide disinformation infrastructure' (Screen capture via CyberSky)

An Israeli cybersecurity firm announced Thursday it had uncovered three Iran-run fake Hebrew and Arabic news sites targeting Israelis, as well as a score of fake social media accounts.

ClearSky said one of the sites is the Hebrew-language Tel Aviv Times, which engages in “distorting news,” and the other two are Arabic language news outlets that promote the Islamic Republic.

It also said there were 14 fake Facebook profiles and 11 fake Twitter accounts that were part of this Iranian “infrastructure,” which have thousands of followers between them, though many of them closed down after being uncovered by ClearSky, the company said.

The Tel Aviv Times has been operating since 2013, according to the announcement, and has about 66,000 monthly views, the vast majority of them from Israel, according to SimilarWeb. The site carries articles ClearSky said were plagiarized from mainstream Israeli news sites, though the headlines and crucial paragraphs were changed to support Iran’s agenda.

According to ClearSky, the sites and accounts are part of an Iranian “worldwide disinformation infrastructure that was set up over the years by the Iranians and includes over 100 active news and media sites in 24 countries and 29 languages.”

A researcher for the firm said Iran in recent years has expanded its efforts to promote its agenda online, from an initial focus on countries in the Middle East to any nation in which it has an interest.

“In our assessment the purpose of setting up this infrastructure is to influence public opinion in target countries and likely to send targeted messages to activists and supporters of Iran,” the researcher said in a Hebrew-language statement.

The ClearSky announcement came after Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube shuttered hundreds of accounts last month that were allegedly tied to Iranian misinformation efforts.

It also came just weeks after US firm FireEye said it had uncovered a “suspected influence operation” appearing to originate in Iran, targeting audiences in the US, UK, Latin America, and the Middle East. FireEye said the goal of the campaign was to “promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests. These narratives include anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States and Israel of themselves leading a “propaganda war” meant to undermine the internal stability of the Islamic Republic.

In remarks posted to his Twitter account, Khamenei said alongside the “all-inclusive economic war” against Iran, there is also a “propaganda war” that gets overlooked.

His comments came the day after US President Donald Trump said that Iran is “in turmoil” and worrying about its survival as a result of Washington’s pressure on Tehran to force it into renegotiating a stricter nuclear weapons agreement.

read more:
comments