Fake Facebook accounts promote a campaign against the American ambassador to Jerusalem

Fake accounts have illegally magnified hundreds of documents documenting the activities of Israeli politician Nir Barkat in Washington

source: https://ibb.co/23SrYq8

Israel's leading politician's campaign to recruit American Palestinian ambassadors to East Jerusalem has been boosted on Facebook by a network of fake accounts, according to a study shared with NBC News.

Politician and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who challenged Benjamin Netanyahu as leader of the Israeli opposition, Likud, has spent time in Washington in recent months urging lawmakers not to reopen the consulate, which was closed by former President Donald Trump in 2019 after . his officials recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The office provided consular services to Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. President Joe Biden swore in taking the reins of the embassy and used it to rebuild relations with the Palestinian people.

As of August, Barkat's Facebook has been posting on the subject, including photos of Barkat with members of Congress, such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Lindsey Graham, RS.C., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. , has distributed a network of at least 320 accounts that have been declared false by the Israeli disinformation research company FakeReporter. Investigators say such a false deal could create public perceptions about the popularity of politicians and the Facebook news algorithm game so that the posts reach a much larger audience than they could.

They said the study highlights the failure of Facebook to successfully eliminate non-existent networks that promote political campaigns.

Former Jerusalem mayor and Knesset member Nir Barkat speaks to Reuters in Jerusalem

Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat during an interview at his home in Jerusalem in Oct. 6. Nir Elias / Reuters file

"We believe this work is important to our lives as citizens and to democracy," said Achiya Schatz, executive director of FakeReporter. “It is worrying that companies like Facebook, which have so much power over democracy, are not doing much to protect us and keep the posts they created safe. It's not good enough. ”

Schatz said his team suspects, based on the complexity of the profiles' behavior, that the network is made up of sock puppet accounts, which are controlled and used between people, who may be working for a digital agency that allows customers. pay to increase their digital popularity, rather than a fully automated bot.

The office of Cruz, McCarthy and Graham did not respond to requests for comment.

Facebook is facing growing scrutiny from members of Congress following a massive leak of internal posts and articles in the Wall Street Journal and media organization, as well as Congress and the Security and Commerce Commission. The documents, published by Frances Haugen, an investigator and former Facebook employee, show how Facebook has struggled to protect the forum from harmful content.

Margarita Franklin, a spokeswoman for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, stressed that the company has made efforts to address misconduct on the platform.

"We have removed most of these accounts with false preferences and shares," Franklin said, referring to the network identified by FakeReporter, which NBC News shared with Facebook. "We pursue a myriad of counterfeit jobs across our industry - from false engagement to dynamic performance."

He said it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove that the beneficiary of such a false partnership - in this case Barkat - was the one who paid for it, because the transaction would have taken place outside the Facebook forum.

Great impact

As FakeReporter accounts decided to be true and began to promote Barkat's post by sharing and liking it, the average monthly share of his Facebook post increased from 111 to 675 compared to his post three years ago. That, the researchers said, created a false impression of political support in Israel through its lobbying activities.

Among the posts by FakeReporter researchers who believe it has been misplaced by the network is a picture of Barkat shaking hands with Cruz at a meeting in September. In a statement, Barkat said he spoke of "the danger of establishing a Palestinian ambassador to Jerusalem." Posts shared more than 1,200 times, but thanks to the privacy settings of users and the group on Facebook, researchers can see only a small portion of the shares. FakeReporter reviewed 150 shares in person and found that they all came from accounts that decided to be part of the network.

Josh Drill, a spokesman for Barkat, has terminated any communications and network operations.

"Nir Barkat, who is leading the fight against the opening of the American Palestinian embassy in Jerusalem, has no need for these services and has never used fake accounts as the false claim emphasizes," he said. "Barkat carries out his campaign against the division of Jerusalem through meetings with a number of senators and members of Congress and announces his position to the international media, which is viewed by tens of millions of people."

He also added that Barkat's Facebook page "has over 180,000 likes and hundreds of comments and posts for each post."