The crown prince of Saudi Arabia promised to help Trump protest against police violence. The United Arab Emirates made secret, illegal campaign contributions to the Trump campaign. American Chicken McNuggets will give you COVID.
These are just a few of the articles that three “journalists” – Shadia Ben Yousef, Rumisa Hanaui and Ahlam al-Shumayali have published in dozens of articles since May 2019. But it’s not just stories that are all fake. They are all based on spoof websites, fake screenshots, or nonexistent events. And as Facebook announced on Tuesday, many of them were hypnotized by trolls in Iran using fake accounts.
A joint investigation by The Daily Beast and Mandatory Threat Intelligence identified dozens of these fake articles published on 35 different Arabic news outlets in a nearly two-year-long disinformation spree that sent pro-Iranian statements to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia Pushed in front of critics. In legitimate news outlets by fake journalists ..
After The Daily Beast reached Twitter about the accounts of Hanoi and al-Shumayli in October, the company suspended them for violating Twitter’s spam and platform manipulation rules. The Daily Beast was unable to find any social media accounts in the name of Ben Yousef.
In a report on coordinated inhumane behavior released on Tuesday, Facebook said it had identified four accounts from Iran as a network of accounts that “target primarily Arabic, French and English-speaking audiences globally.” Are “and” centered around off-platform typo-squatting “domains” after reviewing information from Daily Beast and Obedient. The company wrote that the automated anti-spam system enabled accounts activity when activated in 2020. ” The vast majority “stopped.
It is unclear who the person behind the fake material was used for his articles. But the raw material for their stories displayed a similar strategy to those seen in Iranian-aligned endless Mayflar transformation activity, previously identified by researchers at the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto.
Content produced as part of the activity of Endless Maylor often relied on bad news websites that duped actual news organizations to pursue statements defaming the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Shadia Ben Yousef, the most active of the three individuals, posted an article posted on an incorrect version of US outlet Defense One, which focuses on military affairs. The article was designed to look like an actual site, to the bogus claim that the Mossad chief had visited an Iraqi military base where US troops were stationed.
Impersonation on social media also proved a fertile source of content for the individual. Ben Yousef relied on a host of Twitter accounts used on Twitter, including a US diplomat at the US embassy in Baghdad, a former senior intelligence official and member of parliament, and an imaginary Yeshni jihadist splinter group that threatened an Arab This was given – peace conference in Bahrain.
Shortly before the 2020 presidential election, someone also registered a Facebook account claiming to be an Israeli cybersecurity officer, claiming that the UAE royal family made a generous donation of US $ 200 million to Trump’s campaign Had given them hope of retaining power. “Hanoui published a story in the Algerian daily El Widemad about forgery alleging a grand conspiracy by Israel and the UAE to keep Trump in power.
The fake Israeli Facebook account was also shared by a Twitter account, impersonating Corey Lemley, an actual Antifa activist in Tennessee. It was a blatant attempt to spread the story of the Middle East’s election-lies to a leftist, English-speaking audience. Lemley confirmed to The Daily Beast that the account was fake and not linked to him in any way.
Facebook and Twitter suspended the accounts involved when The Daily Beast shared examples of content, but were unable to determine who was behind them.
The man published his work primarily in legitimate Arabic news outlets, but some also appeared on fake news sites set up by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Nilnetonline and Libya Al Mokhtar – At least two stories were shown on IRGC-run fake news sites, which are outlets in Egypt and Libya, which the Justice Department later seized and attributed to the IRGC.
This person stuck to the same topics as the endless melee activity of the US and its allies Saudi Arabia and Israel – but also added a new focus in response to events in the Middle East: the UAE and Arab normalization process put an end to it . in the Middle East.
As the UAE moved closer to diplomatic recognition with Israel, the man tried to tarnish the country’s image between the emirate and its allies. The Ben Yousef personality ran fake stories saying that the UAE had turned its back on Saudi Arabia and had established a relationship with the Kingdom’s Gulf rival Qatar to take control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. There was a conspiracy with Israel and one was “wrong”. Flag “attack with Israel on tankers in the Gulf to blame Iran.”
Imrati’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otiba, told The Daily Beast that while he was not familiar with the specific disinfection effort, he did not see it as a surprise. “It was something we clearly knew was going to happen. We knew where it was going to come from. We all knew what the messages were going to be, ”said Otaiba.
Despite the apparent attempt to make up the mind against normalization, Otaiba says the campaign has had no effect on public opinion. “In the United Arab Emirates, it has not affected what our outlook is with Israel. We are full of steam ahead. “
Individuals also captured the global epidemic, so that coronaviruses could be used as a propaganda weapon against the US. The Ben Yousef personality wrote bogus stories about Americans and acted as transition vectors in friendly countries about America’s symbols. One story cited a fictional cluster of coronovirus infections among American soldiers in Iraq, and another using a fake Twitter screenshot of a French member of parliament claiming that a four-piece box of McDonald’s Chicken McGate gave him the virus May be given.
During his nearly two-year newspaper campaign, until the story of Ben Yousef succumbed to an unhappy Lebanese woman, Najwa Kasem, an Al Arabiya broadcaster, died suddenly of a heart attack. Not until then did people appear to receive little critical attention from the public. In January 2020, his friend Reema Najam, a Lebanese journalist and writer, wrote about his terror while searching for a fake quote about the incident that happened to him in Ben Hosef’s story. The story, published in Egyptian news outlets, used fake quotes from Najam to frame the death in some way related to being suspicious and attempting to quit a job on another network.
Najm did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast, but wrote about the experience in a piece immediately following the incident.
“It is painful that something has put you in a situation that you do not have. So in the end you are connected to a task that you did not do and there is a saying that you do not speak,” she wrote.
– with additional reporting by Kelly Weil