Hizbullah – A Victim Of Identity Theft: Claims Its Twitter Account Has Been ‘Hacked’ As ‘Part Of Soft War Launched Against Us,’ In Addition To Attacks Against It ‘On The Internet And On Smartphones’

June 21, 2013

Almanarnews Twitter page

Introduction

Hizbullah exerts special efforts in its social media activities, and has a number of times called attempts to stop its cyber jihad activity on social media a “war” and “electronic onslaught” against it. [1] Despite its designation by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization – meaning that it is illegal for U.S.-based companies to aid it – it still diligently maintains accounts on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.


Al-Manar website

Since November 16, 2011, Hizbullah has been a prolific Twitter user, tweeting on average over 200 times daily via its official account @almanarnews; as of this writing, it has posted 122,987 tweets and has gained 50,345 followers. Al-Manar tweets have included statements by Hizbullah officials and speeches by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as news about the Iranian government and military developments. It has also tweeted news on alleged CIA espionage efforts in Lebanon against Hizbullah. [2] Most of the tweets, which are in Arabic, French, and English, link back to the Al-Manar website (almanar.com.lb – which is currently hosted by ISPs in London, Miami, and, most recently, Columbus, Ohio).

On multiple occasions, Hizbullah has issued statements noting that its official Twitter account has been “hacked”; it should be clarified that it is referring to a case of identity theft, that is, what it says is a “fake” Twitter account that claims to belong to it. On May 20, 2013, the terror organization became nearly hysterical on the matter, adding a banner across the top of its website stating: “Attention! The Twitter account [email protected] is fake and doesn’t belong to Al-Manar TV; the official account is [email protected]” According to Hizbullah, this fake account has tweeted false information and moral support for the Syrian rebels.


The banner across the top of the Al-Manar website

This fake Hizbullah Twitter account ([email protected]), which first tweeted on April 14, 2011, remains active; as of this writing it has posted 708 tweets – approximately six per week – and gained 11,868 followers.

It should be noted that while Hizbullah has complained about being hacked, it itself proudly posts on the Al-Manar website reports of Iran’s successful hacking attempts to intercept U.S. drones. One report, in February 2012, was about an Iranian toy company’s mocking of President Obama by sending him one of its toy models of the U.S. Sentinel spy drone that Iran claims it brought down in this way in December 2011. [3] The website also celebrates reports of successful hacking attempts against Israel or Israel supporters.

Al-Manar TV’s general manager, Abdallah Qassir, said in an interview about hacking attacks on Hizbullah: “It is clear that Israel and the United States are dealing with Al-Manar as a channel hostile to the Israeli occupation and the American imperialism and hegemony in the region, and thus it became a target for the Americans and the Israelis. They fought against Al-Manar television on the Internet and on smartphones as well. It is a part of the soft war launched against us.”

He added, “I believe that attacking the Al-Manar website and creating false accounts under the name of Al-Manar is not the whole war. It is only a part of the war, which will be complemented only by posting what the fabricated account is reporting on other mass media, like the Kuwaiti agency.” [4]

May 20, 2013: Report on Al-Manar Website “Fake Al-Manar Account Gives Moral Aid to Militants in Syria”

A report on Al-Manar news that stated that a fake Twitter account for the Al-Manar website was being used by an unknown hacker also noted that Hizbullah claimed that it was giving moral support to the armed groups engaging in fighting the Syrian army, specifically during the May 19 battle at Al-Qusayr. [5] According to the report, this fake Al-Manar account published statements in the name of Al-Manar’s editor, and gave some of the “false tweets” as follows:

  • “Sheikh Naim Qassem made a visit to Al-Qusayr city to raise the morale of the resistance’s brave soldiers.”
  • “Al-Manar administration offers its deepest condolences to Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah over the martyrdom of his son-in-law, Sayyed Ali Hussein Al-Masri, while performing his duty of protecting the Lebanese in Al-Qusayr villages.”
  • “Hizbullah announces holding a funeral for the martyrs of duty in Al-Qusayr, who’s estimated number is 120 martyrs, in Nabatieh on Monday.”

The article added: “According to Al-Manar, these fake tweets aim to distort the image of Hizbullah, and Al-Manar is reminding its audience to follow the official Twitter link, which appears on its Arabic page.”

The May 20 report on Al-Manar’s website

May 25, 2013 Report On Al-Manar Website Titled “Hackers Attribute False News to Al-Manar on Fake Twitter Account” Claims That This “Could Ignite A Crisis Between Iran And Kuwait”

An August 25, 2012 report [6] on the Al-Manar website noted that a “fabricated page” on Twitter “continues to post false news under [the] Al-Manar signature,” and adds that this “could ignite a crisis between Iran and Kuwait.” According to Al-Manar, this “act of hacking that Al-Manar faces on Twitter” which it calls “disinformation which started two months ago” has “been boosted by fabricated news, but of regional dimension this time.”

According to the report, “this fake Twitter account posted false statements on behalf of Al-Manar, which caused confusion in the Islamic Republic [i.e. Iran], Kuwait and Syria, the preferred material of disinformation.”

The report quoted Al-Manar programs department manager Wael Karaki as saying:“After what happened two months ago, one of the parties has created a false account of Al-Manar on the social network site of Twitter under the name of AlmanarTV. It has adopted the same design that we adopt as a channel.”

He continued, “Thus, we decided to put a notice for all our followers at Al-Manar’s official page [reading]: Attention: @almanartv is a fake account. Anyone who wants to follow Al-Manar news on Twitter should make sure that the name of the official Al-Manar page is @almanarnews, and not @almanartv. It is preferable that he [i.e. the reader] click on the Twitter icon found on Al-Manar official homepage.”

The May 25 report on Al-Manar’s website

The report added, “Those who fabricated this page have artfully posted a series of correct news, along with some false news that provoke sedition, and far from Al-Manar’s policy and mission.” It added in bold at the bottom of the page, “Again, Al-Manar cautions that this is its official website, and it bears no responsibility towards any news out of this page and its related social network websites.”

August 18, 2012 Report on Al-Manar Website: “Fake Al-Manar Website Account on Twitter”

On August 18, 2012, in a brief report, the Al-Manar website first announced that there was a fake Al-Manar Twitter account, [7] stating that it was publishing “inaccurate positions” in order to “delude [the] audience that Al-Manar website is the one publishing it.”

It added, “As a reminder, Al Manar’s official twitter page is: twitter.com/almanarnews. However, the fake address is twitter.com/almanartv. We advise our audience to be careful and take note that the fake account titles itself ‘almanarnews’ to confuse the reader and puts an alert message that other accounts are fake. So, be sure to differentiate between the two pages on the address as we mentioned before.”

The August 18 report on Al-Manar’s website.

*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[2] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No.849, HASHTAG #Jihad: Charting Jihadi-Terrorist Organizations’ Use Of Twitter, June 21, 2012.