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Report: Israel Funding Covert Social Media Campaign to Influence US Politicians

Many posts were written using ChatGPT, and included links to fake pro-Israel websites created for the campaign.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries heads to a sensitive compartmented information facility in the basement of the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center to meet with other Congressional leaders and intelligence officials from the White House on February 14, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

The Israeli government spent millions of dollars to fund a covert, ongoing social media campaign to create an illusion of stronger pro-Israel sentiment in order to push U.S. politicians to send more military funding to bankroll the Gaza genocide and other Israeli atrocities, a new bombshell report finds.

Reports published Wednesday by Haaretz and The New York Times detail how, in October, the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs allocated $2 million to an astroturf campaign to create hundreds of fake accounts across X, Facebook and Instagram. The reporting is based in part on reports of fake accounts uncovered by research group FakeReporter that began documenting the campaign shortly after it began last year.

The accounts targeted dozens of U.S. Congress members, specifically Black Democrats like House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (New York), Sen. Raphael Warnock (Georgia) and outspoken Zionist Rep. Ritchie Torres (New York).

The posts were aimed at placing blame for Israel’s slaughter on Hamas, accusing college pro-Palestine protesters of being antisemitic (without evidence), vilifying the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and urging lawmakers to approve packages like the U.S.’s recent $15 billion influx of military assistance to Israel. Fake English news websites touting pro-Israel and extreme Islamophobic material were also created as part of the campaign.

The accounts were disguised as concerned American students and constituents and cited articles by fake websites called Non-Agenda or UnFold Magazine, for instance, that copied and reprinted articles with a pro-Israel bent from news websites like The Wall Street Journal or The Jerusalem Post. Many posts were written by ChatGPT, as owner OpenAI confirmed, and Meta has claimed to have worked to disrupt the campaign.

Israeli officials contracted a Tel Aviv political marketing firm called Stoic to carry out the campaign, according to sources and documents cited by Haaretz and the Times. It was sold to participating Israeli tech firms as a war propaganda effort, saying that they could become “digital soldiers” and “warriors for Israel” amid Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

One reply to Torres on X on December 8 said, “Hamas is perpetuating the conflict,” the Times documented. According to FakeReporter, many posts with identical wording were shared dozens of times between November and February. One post, which tagged an Ivy League school and claimed that said school “is not safe for Jews #MeTooUnlessUrAJew” was posted nearly 200 times, the report found. “Would you speak-up about the Ivy league statement if it were about enslaving black people?” was posted with the same hashtag over 70 times.

FakeReporter also found that there was a peak in anti-UNRWA content by the fake accounts in late January, after Israel accused UNRWA employees of being involved with Hamas militants without evidence.

Experts said that the campaign may not have had a meaningful impact; the Times report describes it as “sloppy,” raising 118 instances in which the fake accounts shared an article and wrote “I gotta reevaluate my opinions due to this new information.”

Still, the revelations are a stunning show of an attempt at foreign influence on U.S. politics and lawmaking by an ally of the U.S., perhaps echoing Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 elections — an act that spurred a political flurry that lasted for years, prompting droves of hearings and investigations in Congress.

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