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Israel Secretly Targets U.S. Lawmakers Hakeem Jeffries And Raphael Warnock In Deceptive Social Media Campaign

Israel Secretly Targets U.S. Lawmakers Hakeem Jeffries And Raphael Warnock In Deceptive Social Media Campaign

Israel

Raphael Warnock, May 21, 2022 in Norcross, Ga. (AP Photo/Akili-Casundria Ramsess)

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs ordered and funded a covert influence campaign last year that targeted U.S. lawmakers and the American public with pro-Israel messaging, according to reports. This operation, which aimed to garner support for Israel’s actions in the Gaza war, used fake social media accounts to urge U.S. lawmakers to continue funding Israel’s military, according to officials involved and documents related to the campaign. Among those who were targeted were Black politicians Hakeem Jeffries and Raphael Warnock.

At least 128 members of Congress were targeted, The New York Times reported. The campaign involved more than 2,000 coordinated comments per week backing Israel’s military actions while making negative comments about Palestinian rights groups.

The covert campaign was commissioned by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, a government body that connects Jews around the world with the State of Israel, four Israeli officials said. The ministry allocated about $2 million to the operation and hired Stoic, a political marketing firm in Tel Aviv, to carry it out, according to the officials and the documents.

The campaign began in October 2023 and remains active on the platform X, The New York Times reported. At its peak, it used hundreds of fake accounts that posed as real Americans on X, Facebook, and Instagram to post pro-Israel comments. The accounts focused on U.S. lawmakers, particularly ones who are Black and Democrats, such as Jeffries, the House minority leader from New York, and Warnock of Georgia, with posts urging them to continue funding Israel’s military. Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs ordered the operation, which used fake social media accounts urging U.S. lawmakers to fund Israel’s military, according to officials and documents about the effort.

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, was used to generate many of the posts. The campaign also created three fake English-language news sites featuring pro-Israel articles, Politico reported.

The Israeli government’s connection to the influence operation, which The New York Times verified with four current and former members of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and documents about the campaign, has not previously been reported. FakeReporter, an Israeli misinformation watchdog, identified the effort in March. Last week, Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, said they had also found and disrupted the operation.

(L-R) Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., in Washington, July 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)/Raphael Warnock, May 21, 2022 in Norcross, Ga. (AP Photo/Akili-Casundria Ramsess)