Meta removes network of fake Facebook accounts linked to pro-Israeli influence campaign

The company Meta announced on Wednesday May 29 that it had deleted several hundred Facebook accounts used as part of a pro-Israeli influence operation. Their existence was revealed in February and March by successive publications by American researchers and then by Israeli media.

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This campaign, active both on Facebook, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

In its latest report, Meta formally attributes this campaign to STOIC, a small private Israeli company based in Tel Aviv and specializing in online communication campaigns. On its website and social media accounts, the company, which says it was created in 2017, highlights its know-how in political campaigns and sells content creation tools using artificial intelligence. It does not explicitly offer tools for creating fake accounts but touts content “distribution” services. Meta announced Wednesday that it had sent a legal letter to the company formally asking it to cease all activity on its platforms.

In March, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a survey on a coordinated, pro-Israeli influence campaign carried out on social networks – the first identified since the start of the war. A network of fake X accounts, many presented as belonging to American Internet users, served to amplify certain official speeches by Israeli diplomacy, but also to denounce the rise of anti-Semitism in American universities. The investigation also made it possible to determine that these fake accounts were used to amplify the echo of false media, created from scratch as part of this campaign: Moral Alliance, Unfold Magazine, and Non-Agenda. While it is difficult to estimate the real reach of this campaign across all networks, Meta estimated that, on Facebook and Instagram, most of the publications were automatically deleted before generating authentic engagement.

Attacks on UNRWA

As indicated a report from the NGO Fake ReporterQuoted by Haaretz, some of these accounts also repeated accusations targeting numerous members of the United body UNRWA as being directly linked to Hamas. In February, researchers from the DFRLab, a laboratory backed by an American think tank and specializing in the study of disinformation, had already identified signs of inauthentic activity on X around this folder.

The vast majority of these tweets were sent around January 31, when Israeli intelligence formally accused UNRWA employees of having participated in the October 7 attack and many countries announced they were withdrawing their financial support from the agency. An internal UN investigation is still underway, but diplomats have Many times accused Israeli authorities of not providing enough evidence to support certain accusations.

The rise of private companies in the organization of online influence operations makes it possible to mask, thanks to the intermediaries, the order givers of these campaigns. In its report, Meta only managed to identify the technical operator of these fake accounts, the company STOIC, without being able to say who the client was. In its investigation, the daily Haaretz recalled that the Israeli authorities had financed, since the start of the war, several initiatives, both private and institutional, in order to promote the country’s diplomacy.

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