The other day, a Facebook friend of mine posted a warning against a “pretty young girl” using several fake accounts under Lebanese and (Lebanese-)Armenian names/nicknames to add random Lebanese people on Facebook. The friend requests were naturally easily accepted given the obvious sex-appeal of the needy 23 year-old. The guys “Liked” and “Shared” much of the flaunted flesh. I was surprised to see that this was also the case with the girls.
I wondered why my friend would do the Facebook police when such a phenomenon has become increasingly common in social media. Common phenomenon, indeed, except that an array of almost invisible clues drive us to a different observation this time.
There are several little elements indicating that the account is fake. But there are also subtler ones that lead us to the source and identity of the scam artist. Take a look at the picture below, do you notice the handwriting in Hebrew on the bench (circled in red)?
Also, check this one. Do you see that little star of David hanging on the bottom of her earring?
This is another picture detail where you can see a small inscription in Hebrew on a dark blue slinky top:
Finally, check the urban landscape in the background of the picture below. There is something about the disposition of those palm trees, roof antennas/dishes, white concrete around the red roofs that does not look like Lebanon. Of course, that does not mean we do not have palm trees, red roofs et cetera in Lebanon. But there is something about the landscape that looks not in its place. Anyway, there are other clues in the other pictures.
Okay. We have a fake Israeli Lolita who is compulsively adding young Lebanese men and women on Facebook. Why would someone do that?
Well, social media — Facebook in particular — is a major mine of information. Israeli soldiers are often warned/reminded by their superiors of being careful not to disclose confidential military information on-line. Israeli intelligence officials often say that “Facebook is a major resource for terrorists, seeking to gather information on soldiers and IDF units”, fearing that “soldiers might even unknowingly arrange to meet an Internet companion who in reality is a terrorist.” Hezbollah has frequently used fake accounts of pretty young girls to lure Israeli soldiers into giving them bits of information on Israel’s military units. Israel, too, has developed a special military unit to fight its enemies on-line. These things are very serious. In March 2010, the Israeli military canceled a planned raid on a Palestinian village after one of its soldiers posted details of the operation on Facebook. The poor soldier was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 days in prison. He was also ousted from his battalion and relieved of combat duties.
Fine, but that does not explain why Israeli intelligence units would compulsively add average Lebanese citizens with no apparent military or political credentials. Well, sometimes, public opinions are far more precious than confidential military information. Facebook and other social media platforms are an excellent way to pick up moods. Collective moods, I mean. Infiltrating a social network nowadays is like infiltrating a whole society. You can hear what’s going on; read people’s comments about day-to-day life in Lebanon; read what they say about ordinary and extraordinary things; see them react to “normal” as much as “abnormal” events; be in the know of almost everything: social, cultural, political, and so on.
Sometimes, one can learn far more from observing the fluctuations of social moods and attitudes than from a leaked secret d’État. Especially if you’re planning for something, or, say, waiting for the right timing to… God forbid.