The Iron Dome has played a major role in shooting down rockets from Gaza, Lebanon and other hot spots along Israel’s borders. But what about word bombs launched on social media and even in the mainstream press, which can do just as much damage?
A new initiative by the website FakeReporter, dubbed Digital Iron Dome, combats toxic posts by giving any Internet user the ability to report inappropriate, hateful, antisemitic or anti-Zionist content with a single click.
Fake news is a scourge at all times, but it’s especially problematic during war, where dissemination of falsehoods can trigger violence. The recent reporting that Israel had targeted a hospital in the Gaza Strip was debunked by video and audio footage, but not before it prompted tens of thousands of people across the world to intensify their protests, and threats of retaliation made.
Digital Iron Dome is an entirely volunteer effort by high-tech executives, former intelligence unit veterans and major tech giants operating in Israel including Google Meta (Facebook and WhatsApp), X (formerly known as Twitter), TikTok and LinkedIn.
Their stated mission: to swiftly and effectively eradicate false narratives from social platforms.
The team’s volunteer analysts thoroughly examine every suspicious post submitted through DigitalDome’s web form. If the content is confirmed harmful, the analysts will relay that to Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X and others with the objective of getting the content taken down.
Digital Iron Dome is “a user-friendly reporting platform that empowers every citizen to contribute to this digital defense system,” notes FakeReporter CEO Achiya Schatz.
“The proliferation of violent and false content on social media poses a significant threat, often disseminated by hostile foreign entities. Such content stokes fear, disrupts public discourse, and even hinders the flow of accurate information to decision-makers.”
Reining in harmful content
While some social medial platforms, including X, Meta and TikTok, have indicated they will work to remove incendiary content posted by Hamas and its supporters, others – most notably WhatsApp competitor Telegram – have refused to play ball. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov went so far as to assert that Telegram should continue to provide a home for Hamas content as Hamas uses it “to warn Israelis ahead of attacks.”
X may have more incentive to reign in the harmful content: Last week, European Union officials opened an investigation against the company to determine if it violated the Digital Services Act by allowing the publication of disinformation about the war against Hamas.
Meanwhile, FakeReporter says its “Operation Cleaning the Web” has removed some 55% of the inflammatory content it reported to social networks, with 40% of the offending accounts suspended.
The organization says that, through DigitalDome, it has received more than 20,000 reports on fake profiles, triggering content, and falsified news. Reports can be submitted here.
Digital Iron Dome should not be confused with Cyber Dome, a government-sponsored initiative to combat fake news.
Cyber Dome has paid staff from the Ministry of Defense, the IDF and security agencies Mossad and Shin Bet, with offices in Beersheva.
“We call it the secret sauce,” Gaby Portnoy, director general of Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD), told The Week. “While the orchestra [combined efforts of various departments] works outside, INCD does the internal work. We all work closely together. All the alerts we receive from the orchestra are used to improve our skills.”
A key ingredient to the Cyber Dome’s “secret sauce” is artificial intelligence. The Week reports that the IDF is using generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT “to sift through the vast amounts of information pouring into their systems and identify significant threats. The IDF uses these platforms to build its defense shield and to enhance its attack capabilities during war.”
Stopping the flow of cash
Why does fake news proliferate? It helps raise money.
In a separate initiative, several leading Israeli tech entrepreneurs are working together to stop Hamas from generating donations through messages claiming the terrorists as “victims.”
“We realized where we had a relative advantage, and where we can most help in the fight against terror,” members of the initiative told the Ynet newspaper. They claim to have successfully closed dozens of accounts affiliated with Hamas that were set to transfer millions of dollars.
Terror groups are relatively limited in their ability to use traditional banks, and so have jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon. Terrorists also launch online crowdfunding campaigns using payment tools such as PayPal and Zelle, Ynet reports.