Israeli and Lebanese users of dating apps are made strange bedfellows by war-baffled GPS

Applications that match users based on their location have apparently been bamboozled by IDF jamming location signals, leading to unusual cross-border suggestions

Illustrative: Atmosphere at The Cut's "How I Get It Done" Presented By Bumble at The Premiere on January 21, 2024 in Park City, Utah.   (Robin Marchant/Getty Images for The Cut /AFP)
Illustrative: Atmosphere at The Cut's "How I Get It Done" Presented By Bumble at The Premiere on January 21, 2024 in Park City, Utah. (Robin Marchant/Getty Images for The Cut /AFP)

Israeli and Lebanese users of dating apps have found themselves caught in an electronic fog of war as the applications suggest hookups between people living in enemy states on two sides of a border that has become an active war zone.

The curious phenomenon has been blamed on the Israel Defense Forces blocking some global positioning system (GPS) signals amid the ongoing war with the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip and deadly clashes with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Since the early days of the war, motorists using navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps would often see their locations show up completely wrong. Users in Tel Aviv would be marked in Cairo, while people in Haifa would show up as in Beirut.

The jamming also seems to have befuddled dating apps.

An Israeli man recently released from reserve duty in the IDF posted on Facebook that a dating app he uses had given him odd matches in Lebanon, the National, a United Arab Emirates English-language outlet, reported last week.

The man noted he has never been to Lebanon but in October, Lebanese profiles started showing up on his matches. The report did not specify which dating app the man was using. However, Israel’s Channel 12 said Tinder and Bumble were affected.

This picture taken from the vicinity of Marjayoun in southern Lebanon on February 8, 2024 shows smoke billowing in the northern Israeli border town of Metula following a Hezbollah attack. (Photo by AFP)

In Lebanon, Leila and Maher, both from Beirut, told the National they had had the same experience, but with Israelis.

“Since the war started, I mostly see Israelis on the app – I barely use it anymore,” Maher told the National.

Omar, a Lebanese man using Tinder, said that while before the war Israeli profiles had shown up occasionally, he had noticed a clear increase since October.

“I keep seeing them and they’re absolutely gorgeous, but I can’t do anything because we’re divided by an apartheid wall and a genocidal army that doesn’t take too well to Arabs,” he added.

The National cited a L’Orient-Le Jour report that in February, Israeli profiles made up 60 to 62 percent of those showing up for Lebanese users of the Tinder app.

For the Lebanese, the situation could have legal consequences as they are prohibited under the law from having any contact with Israelis. The two countries are technically in a state of war.

Ari, a resident of Tel Aviv, noted that Israelis and Lebanese have in the past been kept very much apart as enemies but now, due to the glitch, “these two enemies are casually swiping past each other.”

“Israelis are reveling in it,” he told the National.

The icon for the dating app Tinder appears on a device, in New York, July 28, 2020. (Patrick Sison/AP)

Abed Al Kataya, media program manager at SMEX, a digital rights organization in Beirut, told the outlet, “Interfering with GPS also endangers civilian and commercial maritime and aerial traffic, potentially causing navigation failures.”

He said such activity can be in breach of the International Telecommunication Union, of which Israel is a member. The union requires members to prevent the “transmission or circulation of false or deceptive distress, urgency, safety, or identification signals.”

But Al Kataya dismissed the rumor that the proliferation of Israeli profiles on Lebanese dating apps was a ruse by the Mossad spy agency to get information on local residents.

The Mossad, he noted, has other tools, and “they possess extensive capabilities to wiretap Ethernet cables, submarine cables, and advanced tools to monitor telecommunication networks in Lebanon.”

War erupted on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians amid horrific atrocities. The thousands of attackers who invaded southern Israel from the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military offensive to topple the Hamas regime, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages, over half of whom remain in captivity.

The day after the Hamas attack, the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah began attacks along the border with Israel, saying it was acting in support of Gaza.

The Israeli army said in the following days that it disrupted GPS “in a proactive manner for various operational needs.” It warned of “various and temporary effects on location-based applications.”

Devices that use satellite navigation systems, such as the US-government owned Global Positioning System (GPS), function by receiving signals from multiple satellites orbiting the Earth and using them to calculate a precise location.

But the signal gets weaker the closer it is to the ground, making it easy and cheap to jam with more powerful signals.

GPS use in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel has always been erratic, apparently due to ongoing jamming activities, according to the National, with those using navigation apps often struggling to get a fix on their locations.

Almost daily attacks by Hezbollah have drawn strikes by the IDF and the conflict has steadily increased in intensity while causing the displacement of tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border. Hezbollah has in recent days fired barrages of dozens of rockets at northern Israel and in response the IDF has struck the terror group’s sites deep in Lebanon. The spiraling violence has stoked fears of another war opening in the region.

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