Israel reportedly organised online disinformation campaign to gain US support on Gaza war

Israel reportedly organised online disinformation campaign to gain US support on Gaza war
Israel organised a large-scale campaign involving fake websites and social media accounts to target US progressives, a new report has revealed.
3 min read
05 June, 2024
The Israeli disinformation campaign began after the failure of previous propaganda efforts [Getty]

Israel organised a large-scale campaign which used fake news and disinformation to target progressive activists and Black members of Congress in the US and Canada amid the Gaza war, Haaretz and The New York Times reported.

An investigation by the Israeli OSINT research group FakeReporter revealed that the campaign used fake websites and social media posts to promote anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic and pro-Israeli content, as well as false information about antisemitism at US universities.

The campaign was commissioned by Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry but run by a private organisation, for fear of exposure, Haaretz reported.

The NYT report said that the Tel-Aviv based marketing firm Stoic received the orders from the ministry.

Three fake "news websites" which took reports from official media were set up and then associated with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, which acquired tens of thousands of followers.

Fake online accounts, known as avatars, were also set up and these were used to push articles which promoted the Israeli narrative. This included questionable reports about sexual assaults by Hamas fighters and unproven allegations of links between Hamas and UNRWA, the UN agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees.

The main targets were Black members of the US Congress, particularly from the Democratic Party.

Fake Reporter described the efforts as "a large-scale, well-coordinated effort to attack and smear groups that are typically pro-Palestinian. These groups include citizens of Western countries (mainly the US and Canada) of Islamic origins, using deeply Islamophobic and anti-immigrant content".

Key findings
The NYT reported that the campaign was carried out by Stoic under the orders of the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs
The campaign relied on "hundreds of fake accounts posing as real Americans"
The fake accounts posted pro-Israel content on social media platforms
The campaign focused on the Black Democratic lawmakers in the US
The campaign remains active on X and relies on content generated using OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT

 

The websites used included United Citizens for Canada, which claimed that Muslim immigrants were a threat to Canada and wanted to impose Sharia law.

Another site was called Arab Slave Trade, which took information from Wikipedia to amplify the message that Arabs had been involved in enslaving Africans.

Serenity Now took a more original approach, adopting an "anarchist and anti-establishment" line, according to Haaretz, to promote opposition to a Palestinian state among young Americans on the grounds that "states are manmade structures".

Another site, Good Samaritan, tried to spread fear about antisemitism on US college campuses, featuring a map of campuses which were "safe" or "unsafe" for Jewish students.

Haaretz reported that the campaign was motivated by a "great failure" in Israeli public diplomacy, with social media dominated by pro-Palestinian messages despite Israeli propaganda efforts.

Meta and Open AI reportedly informed Stoic last week they had removed accounts connected to fake websites linked to the company.

However, the accounts do not appear to have had much engagement, gaining only around 40,000 followers on X, Facebook, and Instagram, according to Fake Reporter, with many of these being bots.