A covert Israeli online influence campaign was trying to sway American lawmakers

The Israel Embassy in Israel hasn’t yet responded to the Israeli Embassy’s Tweet about the alleged influence campaign on the Gaza war: Israeli researchers and the New York Times

Aouragh wrote that Israel has been trying to influence the American public via digital media for a long time.

Websites that appear to covertly target mostly younger, progressive Americans with a pro-Israeli spin on the war in Gaza are linked to a company that’s being paid by the Israeli government to sway lawmakers and public opinion in the U.S., according to Israeli researchers and The New York Times.

The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment. The Times reports that the office denied involvement in the campaign. The Times says details of the network of accounts came from internal documents and individuals involved in the campaign.

According to the Times, Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs earmarked around $2 million for the campaign, which used hundreds of fake accounts impersonating made up people to target US lawmakers. The accounts called on members of congress to support Israeli military operations. The campaigns used Openai to target several Black Democrats, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Amichai Chickli, the Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs, tweeted a denial Wednesday about the alleged influence campaign. He accused FakeReporter of “slander against IDF soldiers and the State of Israel.” NPR didn’t get a response from STOIC.

One site says the American universities are unsafe for Jewish students, while another argues against the idea of a Palestinian state. The websites share the same address, suggesting common ownership.

“Doing it against the U.S. is just simply stupid,” says Achiya Schatz, FakeReporter’s CEO. “Israelis should be worried because we can find ourselves easily targeted by these kinds of tools. I don’t trust these kinds of tools in the hands of anyone.”

The source code of fake websites and a wedge between Palestinians and black americans: Israeli online influence campaign attempted to sway American lawmakers

The researchers found the websites’ source code on Git, a platform coders use to manage their work. The name is similar to a co-founder of STOIC and it is referred to in the source code.

DFRLab said the fake accounts mostly interacted with other fake accounts. The accounts were deleted before they gained traction with real people.

The campaigns aimed to drive a wedge between Palestinians and Black Americans, according to an anthropologist in the United Kingdom.

Aouragh said different groups are giving in to the solidarity and affinity that they have felt. She says the influence campaigns are a desperate attempt to break the unity.

Framing Islam as the problem is not something the state should be involved with. “It’s promoting hate and promoting fear and promoting messages that, at the end of the day, I’m embarrassed by.”

Source: A covert Israeli online influence campaign tried to sway American lawmakers

Attacks on Israel during the 2009 Gaza War: OpenAI, Meta, Fake Reporter, and Israel’s Embassy at the Jerusalem Foreign Ministry

Fake Reporter’s report this week follows similar reports released last week by the social media company Meta and artificial intelligence company OpenAI. The companies took down fake accounts that were tied to STOIC. OpenAI said that fake accounts were used to distribute the articles and comments.

Back in 2009, an official from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told an Israeli newspaperthat the department was establishing a team to promote Israel and specifically to rally international support in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza that year, known as Operation Cast Lead. The department hired people who spoke foreign languages like English to write messages on social media. The official cited influencing Americans as an example, and also said those workers did not have to identify themselves as working on behalf of the Israeli government.

“The main countries that hasbara has traditionally been targeting are the main funders of Israel, the main supporter. So Europe and North America,” Aouragh told NPR. She said that the common narratives in Europe include using anti-semitism or depicting Arab terrorists as 9/11 is our 9/11.

In the Gulf countries, Aouragh says, hasbara encourages people to focus on their own affairs. “Why don’t you worry about your own financial problems, your own conflicts, your own wars?”

Social media influence campaigns, as well as many other ways hasbara does, should not be used recklessly during war.

“You give legitimacy to an act that is at its core is manipulative and anti-democratic in many ways, because you’re pushing people’s decision-making away from reality,” Schatz said. They’re being done by non-democratic countries. [such] as Russia or Iran. I don’t know why we should take part in it.”

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