The conflict between Israel and Hamas is quickly turning into a global online war.
Iran, Russia, and to a lesser extent China, have used state media and the world’s leading social networks to support Hamas and weaken Israel, in addition to embarrassing its main ally, the United States. United States.
Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have also joined the fight online, along with extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which once opposed Hamas.
The avalanche of propaganda and disinformation online is greater than ever seen before, according to US government officials and independent researchers — a reflection of the global geopolitical divide.
“It’s seen by millions or hundreds of millions of people around the world and it affects warfare in a way that can be as effective as any other warfare tactic,” said Rafi Mendelsohn, vice president of Cyabra, a social networks intelligence company in Tel Aviv.
Cyabra has documented at least 40,000 bots or fake accounts online since Hamas attacked Israel in Gaza on October 7.
The content — which is visceral and emotionally charged, politically slanted and often false — has sparked anger and even violence beyond Gaza, raising fears it could spark a wider conflict.
Although Iran has denied any involvement in the Hamas attack, it has made several threats, with its Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warning of retaliation on “multiple fronts” if Israeli forces remain in Gaza.
“It’s like anyone involved,” said Moustafa Ayad, executive director of Africa, the Middle East and Asia at the Institute for Strategic Dialogues.
The Institute, a nonprofit research organization in London, last week detailed the influence campaigns of Iran, Russia and China.
Those campaigns did not appear to be coordinated, US and other government officials and experts said, although they did not rule out collaboration.
Although Iran, Russia and China have different motives for supporting Hamas instead of Israel, they have supported the same issues since the war began.
They not only provide moral support but also conduct information campaigns covertly or openly expanding the global reach of their views on multiple platforms and multiple languages.