Tensions in the area ran so high that new groups calling for revenge against Palestinians began emerging on WhatsApp and on other messaging services like Telegram. The first WhatsApp groups appeared last Tuesday, Mr. Schatz said. By last Wednesday, his organization had found dozens of the groups.

People can join the groups through a link, many of which are shared within existing WhatsApp groups. Once they have joined one group, other groups are advertised to them.

The groups have since grown steadily in size, Mr. Schatz said. Some have become so big that they have branched off into local chapters that are dedicated to certain cities and towns. To evade detection by WhatsApp, organizers of the groups are urging people to vet new members, he said.

On Telegram, Israelis have formed roughly 20 channels to commit and plan violence against Palestinians, according to FakeReporter. Much of the content and messaging in those groups imitates what is in the WhatsApp channels.

On one new WhatsApp group that The Times reviewed, “The Revenge Troops,” people recently shared instructions for how to build Molotov cocktails and makeshift explosives. The group asked its 400 members to also provide addresses of Arab-owned businesses that could be targeted.

In another group with just under 100 members, people shared photos of guns, knives and other weapons as they discussed engaging in street combat in mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Another new WhatsApp group was named “The unapologetic right-wing group.”

After participating in attacks, members of the groups posted photos of their exploits and encouraged others to mimic them.

“We destroyed them, we left them in pieces,” said one person in “The Revenge Troops” WhatsApp group, alongside a photo showing smashed car windows. In a different group, a video was uploaded of black-clad Jewish youths stopping cars on an unnamed street and asking drivers if they were Jewish or Arab.

We beat “the enemy car-by-car,” said a comment posted underneath the video, using an expletive.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel that has been the scene of recent clashes.

“There is no greater threat now than these riots, and it is essential to bring back law and order,” said Mr. Netanyahu.

Within some of the WhatsApp groups, Mr. Netanyahu’s calls for peace were ridiculed.

“Our government is too weak to do what is necessary, so we take it into our own hands,” wrote one person in a WhatsApp group dedicated to city of Ramle in central Israel. “Now that we have organized, they can’t stop us.”

Ben Decker contributed research.

View Source

How Lies on Social Media Are Inflaming the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In a 28-second video, which was posted to Twitter this week by a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip appeared to launch rocket attacks at Israelis from densely populated civilian areas.

At least that is what Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, said the video portrayed. But his tweet with the footage, which was shared hundreds of times as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis escalated, was not from Gaza. It was not even from this week.

Instead, the video that he shared, which can be found on many YouTube channels and other video-hosting sites, was from 2018. And according to captions on older versions of the video, it showed militants firing rockets not from Gaza but from Syria or Libya.

The video was just one piece of misinformation that has circulated on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media this week about the rising violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as Israeli military ground forces attacked Gaza early on Friday. The false information has included videos, photos and clips of text purported to be from government officials in the region, with posts baselessly claiming early this week that Israeli soldiers had invaded Gaza, or that Palestinian mobs were about to rampage through sleepy Israeli suburbs.

has removed several disinformation campaigns by Iran aimed at stoking tensions among Israelis and Palestinians. Twitter also took down a network of fake accounts in 2019 that was used to smear opponents of Mr. Netanyahu.

The grainy video that Mr. Gendelman shared on Twitter on Wednesday, which purportedly showed Palestinian militants launching rocket attacks at Israelis, was removed on Thursday after Twitter labeled it “misleading content.” Mr. Gendelman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Gendelman appears to have mischaracterized the contents of other videos as well. On Tuesday, he posted a video on Twitter showing three adult men being instructed to lie down on the floor, with their bodies being arranged by a crowd nearby. Mr. Gendelman said the video showed Palestinians staging bodies for a photo opportunity.

Mr. Kovler, who traced the video back to its source, said the video had been posted in March to TikTok. Its accompanying text said the footage showed people practicing for a bomb drill.

View Source

Lies on Social Media Inflame Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In a 28-second video, which was posted to Twitter this week by a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip appeared to launch rocket attacks at Israelis from densely populated civilian areas.

At least that is what Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, said the video portrayed. But his tweet with the footage, which was shared hundreds of times as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis escalated, was not from Gaza. It was not even from this week.

Instead, the video that he shared, which can be found on many YouTube channels and other video-hosting sites, was from 2018. And according to captions on older versions of the video, it showed militants firing rockets not from Gaza but from Syria or Libya.

The video was just one piece of misinformation that has circulated on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media this week about the rising violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as Israeli military ground forces attacked Gaza early on Friday. The false information has included videos, photos and clips of text purported to be from government officials in the region, with posts baselessly claiming early this week that Israeli soldiers had invaded Gaza, or that Palestinian mobs were about to rampage through sleepy Israeli suburbs.

has removed several disinformation campaigns by Iran aimed at stoking tensions among Israelis and Palestinians. Twitter also took down a network of fake accounts in 2019 that was used to smear opponents of Mr. Netanyahu.

The grainy video that Mr. Gendelman shared on Twitter on Wednesday, which purportedly showed Palestinian militants launching rocket attacks at Israelis, was removed on Thursday after Twitter labeled it “misleading content.” Mr. Gendelman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Gendelman appears to have mischaracterized the contents of other videos as well. On Tuesday, he posted a video on Twitter showing three adult men being instructed to lie down on the floor, with their bodies being arranged by a crowd nearby. Mr. Gendelman said the video showed Palestinians staging bodies for a photo opportunity.

Mr. Kovler, who traced the video back to its source, said the video had been posted in March to TikTok. Its accompanying text said the footage showed people practicing for a bomb drill.

View Source

South Korean Man Gets 34 Years for Running Sexual Exploitation Chat Room

SEOUL — A South Korean man was sentenced to 34 years in prison on Thursday as part of the country’s crackdown on an infamous network of online chat rooms that lured young women, including minors, with promises of high-paying jobs before forcing them into pornography.

The man, Moon Hyeong-wook, opened one of the first such sites in 2015, prosecutors said. Mr. Moon, 25, operated a clandestine members-only chat room under the nickname “GodGod” on the Telegram messenger app, offering more than 3,700 clips of illicit pornography, they said.

Mr. Moon, an architecture major who was expelled from his college after his arrest last year, was one of the most notorious of the hundreds of people the police have arrested in the course of their investigation. Another chat room operator, a man named Cho Joo-bin, was sentenced to 40 years in prison last November.

“The accused inflicted irreparable damage on his victims through his anti-society crime that undermined human dignity,” the presiding judge, Cho Soon-pyo,​ said of Mr. Moon in his ruling on Thursday.​ The trial took place in a district court in the city of Andong in central South Korea​.

Mr. Moon was indicted in June on charges​ of forcing 21 young women, including minors, into ​making ​sexually explicit videos between 2017 and early last year.​

He ​approached young women looking for high-paying jobs through social media platforms​, then lured them into making sexually explicit videos, promising big payouts​, prosecutors said​.​ He also hacked into the online accounts of women who uploaded sexually explicit content, pretending to be a police officer investigating pornography.

​Once he got hold of the images and personal data, he used them to blackmail the women, threatening to send the clips to their parents unless the victims supplied more footage, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Mr. Moon.

Last December, the police said​ they had investigated 3,500 suspects, most of them men in their 20s or teenagers, as part of their investigation of the online chat rooms that served as avenues for sexual exploitation and pornographic distribution​. They arrested 245 of them.

The police also identified 1,100 victims.

The ​scandal, known in South Korea as “the Nth Room Case,” caused outrage over the cruel exploitation of the young women​. Women’s rights groups picketed courthouses where chat room operators were on trial, accusing judges of condoning sex crimes by handing down what they considered light punishments.

On Thursday, outside the Andong courthouse, advocates held a rally demanding the maximum punishment for Mr. Moon.

In recent years, the South Korean police began cracking down on sexually explicit file-sharing websites as part of international efforts to fight child pornography. As smartphones proliferated, ​they soon realized that much of the illegal trade was migrating to online chat rooms on messaging services like Telegram.

The police said they had trouble tracking down customers of the online chat rooms because they often used cryptocurrency payments to avoid being caught.

View Source

How Anti-Asian Activity Online Set the Stage for Real-World Violence

Negative Asian-American tropes have long existed online but began increasing last March as parts of the United States went into lockdown over the coronavirus. That month, politicians including Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Kevin McCarthy, a Republican of California, used the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese coronavirus” to refer to Covid-19 in their tweets.

Those terms then began trending online, according to a study from the University of California, Berkeley. On the day Mr. Gosar posted his tweet, usage of the term “Chinese virus” jumped 650 percent on Twitter; a day later there was an 800 percent increase in their usage in conservative news articles, the study found.

Mr. Trump also posted eight times on Twitter last March about the “Chinese virus,” causing vitriolic reactions. In the replies section of one of his posts, a Trump supporter responded, “U caused the virus,” directing the comment to an Asian Twitter user who had cited U.S. death statistics for Covid-19. The Trump fan added a slur about Asian people.

In a study this week from the University of California, San Francisco, researchers who examined 700,000 tweets before and after Mr. Trump’s March 2020 posts found that people who posted the hashtag #chinesevirus were more likely to use racist hashtags, including #bateatingchinese.

“There’s been a lot of discussion that ‘Chinese virus’ isn’t racist and that it can be used,” said Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the research. But the term, she said, has turned into “a rallying cry to be able to gather and galvanize people who have these feelings, as well as normalize racist beliefs.”

Representatives for Mr. Trump, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Gosar did not respond to requests for comment.

Misinformation linking the coronavirus to anti-Asian beliefs also rose last year. Since last March, there have been nearly eight million mentions of anti-Asian speech online, much of it falsehoods, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights firm.

In one example, a Fox News article from April that went viral baselessly said that the coronavirus was created in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan and intentionally released. The article was liked and shared more than one million times on Facebook and retweeted 78,800 times on Twitter, according to data from Zignal and CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool for analyzing social media.

View Source