Israel secretly targets US lawmakers to influence Gaza war

Last year, Israel organized and funded an influence campaign targeting U.S. lawmakers and the American public with pro-Israel messages aimed at gaining support for its The war with GazaThat's according to officials involved in the operation and documents related to it.

Four Israeli officials said the covert campaign was commissioned by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the government agency responsible for connecting Jews around the world to the State of Israel. The ministry allocated about $2 million for the operation and hired Stoic, a Tel Aviv-based political marketing firm, to carry it out, according to officials and documents.

The campaign began in October and is still active on the X platform. At its peak, it used hundreds of fake accounts to impersonate real Americans on X, Facebook and Instagram, posting pro-Israel comments. The accounts targeted US lawmakers, particularly Black people and Democrats, such as Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader from New York, and Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, urging them to continue funding the Israeli military.

ChatGPTan AI chatbot was used to generate many of the posts. The campaign also created three fake English news websites containing pro-Israel articles.

The New York Times confirmed the Israeli government’s ties to the influence operation, which has not been previously reported, with four current and former officials at Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry and documents about the operation. The Israeli disinformation watchdog FakeReporter uncovered the operation in March. Last week, Meta and Facebook, which own Facebook and Instagram, launched a campaign to spread the word of the operation. OpenAIChatGPT's developers said they also discovered and disrupted this operation.

The covert operation shows how far Israel is willing to go to sway U.S. opinion on the Gaza war. The U.S. has long been one of Israel’s staunchest allies, and President Biden recently signed $15 billion military aid package But the conflict has Unpopular with many AmericansThey called on Biden to withdraw support for Israel amid the growing civilian death toll in Gaza.

Social media experts said it was the first documented case of an Israeli government-organized campaign to influence the U.S. government. While coordinated government-backed campaigns are not uncommon, they are often difficult to prove. IranNorth Korea, China, Russia and USA These groups are widely believed to support similar efforts around the world, but often conceal their involvement by outsourcing the work to private companies or through third countries.

“Israel's role in this matter is reckless and potentially ineffective,” said Achiya Schatz, executive director of FakeReporter. “Israel's actions to interfere in American politics are extremely irresponsible.”

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs denied any involvement in the campaign and said it had no relationship with Stoic. Stoic did not respond to a request for comment.

Meta and OpenAI said last week that the campaign did not have a widespread impact. FakeReporter found that the fake accounts had amassed more than 40,000 followers on X, Facebook and Instagram. But Meta said many of those followers were likely bots and did not attract a large audience.

The operation began a few weeks after the outbreak of war in October, according to Israeli officials and documents about the operation. That month, dozens of Israeli technology startups received emails and WhatsApp messages inviting them to emergency meetings to become Israel’s “digital soldiers” during the war, according to information reviewed by The New York Times. Some of the emails and messages came from Israeli government officials, while others came from technology startups and incubators.

এছাড়াও পড়ুন  বুশের ক্রসবো আক্রমণ সম্পর্কে আমরা এখন পর্যন্ত যা জানি

The first meeting took place in Tel Aviv in mid-October. Three participants said it appeared to be an informal gathering where Israelis could volunteer technology to help the country’s war effort. They said members of several government departments also attended.

According to the meeting minutes, attendees were told they could become “fighters for Israel” and could run a “digital campaign” on behalf of the country.

Israeli officials said the Diaspora Affairs Ministry commissioned a campaign targeting the United States with a budget of about $2 million, according to a report reviewed by The New York Times.

Stoic was hired to run the campaign. Stoic said on its website and LinkedIn that it was founded in 2017 by a group of political and business strategists and describes itself as a political marketing and business intelligence firm. An Israeli official said other companies may have been hired to run other campaigns.

Many of the movement’s fake accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posed as fictitious American students, concerned citizens and local voters. The accounts shared articles and statistics supporting Israel’s position on the war.

According to FakeReporter analysis, the operation targeted more than a dozen members of Congress, many of whom are black and Democrats. Outspoken about his pro-Israel viewsin addition to Mr Jeffries and Mr Warnock, were also targeted.

Some of the fake accounts responded to Torres’ posts on X by commenting on anti-Semitism on college campuses and in major U.S. cities. In response to Torres’ Dec. 8 post on X about fire safety, one fake account replied, “Hamas is the creator of conflict,” referring to the Islamic militant group. The post also included a hashtag saying Jews were being persecuted.

On Facebook, the fake accounts posted on Jeffries' public page asking him if he had seen reports that the United Nations was employing Hamas members in Gaza.

Mr. Torres, Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Warnock did not respond to requests for comment.

According to FakeReporter analysis, the campaign also created three fake news websites called Non-Agenda and UnFold Magazine, stealing and rewriting material from media outlets such as CNN and the Wall Street Journal to promote Israel's position during the war. Fake accounts on Reddit then linked to articles on the so-called news websites to help promote them.

The work was sloppy. Some accounts used profile pictures that sometimes didn’t match the fictional characters they portrayed, and the language used in posts was stilted.

In at least two cases, the profile pictures of the accounts were of black men, but they posted about being a “middle-aged Jewish woman.” In 118 posts from the fake accounts sharing pro-Israel articles, the same sentence appeared: “In light of this new information, I must re-evaluate my views.”

Last week, Meta and OpenAI released a report attributing the influence campaign to Stoic. explain The company has removed 510 Facebook accounts, 11 Facebook pages, 32 Instagram accounts and one Facebook group associated with the operation. OpenAI explain Stoick has created fictional characters and biographies to replace real people who have posted anti-Islamic rhetoric on social media services in Israel, Canada and the U.S. Many of the posts remain on X.

X has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Stoic touts its AI-powered campaign capabilities on its LinkedIn page. “Looking ahead, it’s clear that the role of AI in political campaigns will take a transformative leap, reshaping how campaigns are strategized, executed, and evaluated,” the company wrote.

As of Friday, Stoic had deleted the posts from LinkedIn.

উৎস লিঙ্ক