World

Israel Unveils $2 Million Influence Campaign Targeting US Lawmakers

Discover how Israel orchestrated a $2 million influence campaign targeting US lawmakers, as revealed by the New York Times. Learn about the social media tactics used and the potential repercussions for US-Israel relations.

Israel's Secret Influence Campaign in the US

The friendship between Washington and Tel Aviv has not prevented Israel from spearheading a massive influence campaign targeting the American Congress, particularly after October 7. The Jewish state is reportedly behind the dissemination of thousands of pro-Israeli messages on social networks, aiming to sway American lawmakers to back military operations in Gaza. According to the New York Times, the Israeli Ministry of the Diaspora engineered this secretive two-million-dollar drive, with Tel Aviv-based political marketing firm, Stoic, serving as the chief executor.

Concrete details reveal the use of hundreds of fake accounts posing as American citizens, disseminating pro-Israeli publications across X, Facebook, and Instagram. These accounts targeted various influential American politicians, urging them to continue supporting the Israeli Defense Forces' actions. Representatives Ritchie Torres and Hakeem Jeffries, along with Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, were among those identified as targets. Additionally, three fictitious pro-Israeli news sites were reportedly established.

Digital Tactics and International Reactions

Evidence of the artificial nature of these posts is clear— the same sentences appeared in multiple pro-Israeli messages. One example noted by the New York Times was a generic comment on a safety-related post by Ritchie Torres. Despite similar actions from countries like Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, and the United States, linking such campaigns to their orchestrators has always been challenging. However, this is the first time a direct connection has been made between Israel and such an influence campaign.

Meta, the parent company of X and Instagram, announced last week that it had removed 510 accounts, 11 pages, one Facebook group, and 32 Instagram accounts linked to this operation. Meanwhile, relations between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which have already been strained since the IDF's ongoing military action in Gaza, are unlikely to improve following these revelations. Notably, President Biden recently authorized a $15 billion military aid package for Israel.

FakeReporter, an Israeli organization combating online misinformation, identified the campaign months prior. Despite such revelations, both the Israeli Ministry of the Diaspora and Stoic have denied any involvement. Minister Amichai Shikli, overseeing the Diaspora Ministry, and the Stoic company themselves have refused to comment on these allegations.

  • This incident underscores the increasingly sophisticated use of digital platforms for political influence, raising concerns about transparency and ethical considerations in international relations. It also highlights the ongoing vulnerability of social media to manipulation by state and non-state actors.
  • The role of Meta and other tech giants in identifying and mitigating such influence campaigns will continue to be crucial. Their actions prompt debates on the responsibilities of social media companies in safeguarding democratic processes and ensuring authentic discourse.
  • The $15 billion military aid package President Biden recently approved for Israel signifies the complex interdependency between the two nations, further complicated by these newly unveiled tactics.
Daily Reports
Refs: | Israel Hayom | Le Figaro |

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