Manipulating Social Media
The Effort to Delegitimize Israel through Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Online
• The Ministry of Strategic Affairs bears overall responsibility for leading the national campaign against the delegitimization and boycotts of the State of Israel. The beginning of July 2020 was marked by a significant increase in online activism against Israel on social networks online. The heightened activity coincided with anticipation of a decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the Israeli-Palestinian issue (early July) and discussion in Israel over the possibility of applying Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
• The characteristics of the online activity raised suspicion among Ministry of Strategic Affairs officials that the anti-Israel content posted was at least partly inauthentic, in a way that created a false impression of widespread anti-Israel sentiment and was in violation of social media company policies. To investigate this suspicion, the Ministry conducted a dedicated study on the matter.
• The study findings indicate that anti-Israel operatives created a network of false profiles which were prepared in advance leading up to July, in preparation for Israel-related events they believe were to take place during this period. This network manages coordinated inauthentic activity on Twitter, almost entirely aimed against the State of Israel, using fake profiles.
• Key findings
1. The Ministry chose to focus the study on 250 different profiles suspected of inauthentic behavior on Twitter. According to the assessment of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, 170 of them (nearly 70%) have carried out inauthentic activities in violation of Twitter policy.
2. The scope and impact of the content posted vastly outnumbers regular user behavior patterns who disseminated similar content in the same timeframe. Thus, for example, at the height of activity of the hashtag #ICC4Israel at the end of June, 15,000 tweets, or 21% (over 3,200 posts) of the total discourse on the topic were linked to inauthentic accounts.
3. The study identified two large networks (over 30 users each), of interconnected inauthentic profiles. One of these networks has been found to have links to entities openly promoting delegitimization, incitement and antisemitism.
• The report found organizations that sought to delegitimize and boycott Israel created a semblance of widespread anti-Israel sentiment using inauthentic technological means. They did so at a critical juncture for Israel in global politics, the ICC ruling on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the possible application of Israeli sovereignty this past summer.
• In fact, these findings further underscore the effort of organizations that seek to delegitimize Israel in gaining public attention on social networks. Our assessment concludes that this widespread effort to coordinate inauthentic accounts was an intentional campaign to manipulate public sentiment against Israel by claiming it was a widespread, authentic and popular movement.
•In light of the findings of the study:
1. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs has reached out to Twitter, calling on it to implement its policies and remove all fake and inauthentic profiles identified, and work to prevent the manipulative use of its platform.
2. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs intends to continue to point out the free reign those who promote hate speech through inauthentic profile, continue to enjoy. To this end, the Ministry intends to conduct periodic studies to detect inauthentic activity by entities seeking to delegitimize and incite against the State of Israel.