Israeli journalist threatened over probe into spy chief’s intimidation of ICC: Report

Meta takes down more than 500 Israeli social media accounts that mislead the public about the Gaza war

LONDON: Meta has taken down more than 500 Facebook and Instagram accounts that acted as a network from Israel and sought to “manipulate” public debate about Tel Aviv’s war on Gaza, the tech giant revealed on Wednesday.

In its latest conflicting threat report, published on May 29, the Meta noted that the Israeli network — shut down in the first quarter of 2024 — comprised 510 Facebook and 32 Instagram accounts, 11 pages and one group.

Meta’s investigation found that the accounts violated its policy, defined as “a concerted effort to manipulate public debate for a strategic objective in which fake accounts are central to the operation.”

The network targeted audiences in the U.S. and Canada, but was discovered and stopped early in its audience-building efforts, Meta said. He had about 500 followers on Facebook and 2,000 on Instagram and less than 100 band members.

Meta’s investigation revealed that these fake accounts operated across the Internet, with activity on X and YouTube.

The accounts, posing as representatives of US and Canadian citizens, contained posts mostly in English about Israel’s war on Gaza. They included praise for the actions of the Israeli military, criticism of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, and calls for the release of Israeli hostages.

The network also operated “strongly branded websites focused on the Israel-Hamas war and Middle East politics.” And promoted them by posting comments on the Facebook pages of international and local media organizations, as well as those of political and public figures, including US lawmakers.

On October 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages.

In retaliation, Israel launched a relentless bombardment of Gaza, killing more than 35,000 Palestinians, displacing 90 percent of the population and destroying critical infrastructure, according to the UN.

Meta began investigating the network’s activity after reviewing public reports from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab about fraudulent behavior on X. Meta then found relevant activity in its own social apps.

But before the investigation even began, Meta’s automated systems discovered and disabled several fake and compromised accounts. But since those accounts were disabled, the people behind them added others, likely obtained from account farms, it was revealed.

The report found that the network’s supporters also bought inauthentic engagement, including likes and followers, from Vietnam.

The investigation revealed that there was an attempt to disguise the source of the accounts using a North American proxy infrastructure; and that they were affiliated with STOIC, a political marketing and business intelligence firm based in Tel Aviv.

After banning STOIC from its platforms, Meta sent a letter to the company demanding that it immediately stop any activity that violates its policies.

Last week, Meta said it deactivated the accounts of several Israeli settlers who used Facebook and Instagram to coordinate attacks on aid convoys bound for Gaza. The company said these operations violate its claims adjustment policy.

But last December, Human Rights Watch accused Meta of “broken promises” after finding the company guilty of “systemic censorship of Palestinian content” and failing to “fulfill its human rights due diligence obligations.”

Leave a Comment