Israel Caught Using Fake Accounts & AI To Sway U.S. Lawmakers

According to the report by the newspaper 'Haaretz,' fake accounts and websites were utilized to disseminate content in support of Israel and to foment hatred towards Islam

by Sededin Dedovic
Israel Caught Using Fake Accounts & AI To Sway U.S. Lawmakers
© Samuel Corum / Getty Images

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an extensive report on a secret influence campaign initiated by Israel, aimed at American lawmakers in an attempt to shape global public opinion about the war in Gaza, reports al Jazeera.

The report states that fake accounts and websites were used to publish content supporting Israel and inciting hatred towards Islam. The operation was organized by the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and led by an Israeli company specialized in political campaigns.

The article explains that the Israeli government stands behind this large-scale campaign, primarily targeting young African Americans and progressive legislators in the US and Canada. The operation, first revealed by Haaretz in March, began after the start of the Gaza war, aiming to influence certain segments of public opinion regarding Israel's conduct.

Political Campaign Company

The influence campaign utilized deceptive information about anti-Semitism on American campuses, with the operation initiated online and a private Israeli company, Stoic, engaged for political marketing purposes.

According to sources and information obtained by Haaretz, the execution of the operation was entrusted to a third party, not the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, fearing Israel could be drawn into a crisis upon its exposure.

The campaign started by creating three "fake news portals" that mirrored reports from official media sources. These sites utilized platforms like X, Facebook, and Instagram, amassing tens of thousands of followers. Simultaneously, operatives used hundreds of avatars to aggressively promote alleged articles serving the Israeli narrative, including purported reports on Hamas assaults and connections between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and Hamas.

A Right wing activist holds an Israeli flag as he blocks the entrance to the UNRWA branch during a protest against the organizat© Amir Levy / Getty Images

The monitoring report now shows the full extent of Israel's influence operation, which evolved into "large, well-coordinated efforts to attack and discredit groups typically pro-Palestinian." These groups include citizens of Western countries, mainly the US and Canada, of Muslim origin, employing anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant content.

Arab Slave Traders

An analysis uncovered four websites sharing the same IP address, promoting content tailored to specific audiences. One of them was "United Citizens for Canada," which had multiple social media accounts spreading highly anti-Islamic content, including claims that Muslim immigrants pose a threat to Canada and advocate for the establishment of a Sharia state.

Another site named "Arab Slave Trade" was nearly entirely copied from Wikipedia and targeted African Americans, attempting to reinforce the message that Arabs were slave traders in Africa. Yet another site called "Serenity Now" described itself as anarchist and anti-establishment, aiming to convince young Americans to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, arguing that states are "man-made structures" and a Palestinian state would "harm the goals of the progressive movement."

Protesters hold signs in front of the UNRWA office in Jerusalem during a demonstration calling for the expulsion of the UNRWA of© Amir Levy / Getty Images

Facebook recently removed accounts associated with these fake pages.

Meta and OpenAI confirmed the existence of influence operations, attributing them to the Israeli company Stoic. According to information obtained by Haaretz, Stoic possesses several software systems enabling audience profiling and customized content creation, besides an influence platform called Ma'acher capable of creating fake online accounts and activating them simultaneously across several social media platforms.

Revelation Harmed Israel

Three sources in public diplomacy and influence campaigns say the exposure of the campaign has harmed Israel and affected its ability to counter online in favor of the Israeli narrative. One of them said: "It's shameful that Facebook and OpenAI are tracking real Western campaigns that are not influence operations but fact-based campaigns aimed at convincing people and countering dangerous lies." Various Israeli officials say the Gaza war revealed a "huge failure" of Israeli "hasbara," or public diplomacy.

Despite massive investments in various public relations companies over the years, Israel has been unable to effectively combat the flood of pro-Palestinian messages on social media, which, among other things, denied any body violence during the October 7 attacks.

Israel lacked the necessary digital tools to cope with what it termed as the "pro-Palestinian toxic [propaganda] machinery" and to sufficiently propagate Hamas "crimes" and defend the Gaza war, reports Al Jazeera. The exposure of Israel's covert influence campaign targeting American lawmakers highlights the complexities of modern information warfare.

Utilizing fake accounts and websites, Israel sought to shape global opinion on the Gaza conflict, but the revelation has backfired, damaging Israel's credibility and its ability to counter opposing narratives online. Despite significant investments in public relations, Israel's failure to effectively respond to pro-Palestinian messaging underscores the challenges posed by digital propaganda.

Moving forward, this incident underscores the importance of transparency, ethical communication, and the need for robust digital strategies to navigate the evolving landscape of information warfare in the 21st century.