Digital Manipulation: Anti-Israel Forces Create Fake Online Campaigns

The Guardian He recently published an “anonymous” letter from 390 Amazon and Google workers who condemned their own companies for participating in Israel’s $ 1.2 billion flagship cloud services project, also known as Project Nimbus.

Somewhat miraculously, less than 20 hours later, the anti-Israel groups Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) and MPower Change launched a full campaign website titled “NoTechForApartheid.” Although this anonymous letter appeared to be a grassroots request from concerned employees, the reality is quite the opposite.

Upon its launch, the website already contained detailed explanations about Project Nimbus, graphics, endorsements from 42 other anti-Israel groups, and prewritten email drafts to send to the leaders of Amazon and Google.

The website domain was purchased almost two months before the “anonymous” letter, on August 17. When JVP faced these accusations by pro-Israel activist Emily Shrader, who coordinated the campaign with letter writers beforehand, they accepted that, “of course we are in contact with them, we literally launched a campaign to support them.”

How can you “support” something two months before they even asked for that support?

Ariel Koren, Google Product Marketing Manager who in 2018 identified with JVP, explained in an online interview that he signed the letter asking his company to “do the right thing.” However, a quick glance at her Twitter Bio reveals that she is also connected to the BDS campaign and is using the campaign hashtag #notechforapartheid.
Similarly, in an opinion piece published on October 13 by NBC News, Amazon content strategist Bathool Syed and his co-author describe themselves as innocent employees concerned about the plight of the Palestinians. In reality, Syed is a fervent supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. Unsurprisingly, Syed added the campaign website to his Instagram account the day after its launch.

Discussion on Islamophobia with Linda Sarsour, Ingrid Mattson and Imam Zaid Shakir (Credit: Flickr)

The Nimbus Project is simply a project to move most of the Israeli government’s IT infrastructure to local cloud-based servers. Contrary to the arguments of the anti-Israel campaign, it would simply enhance the Israeli government’s ability to perform essential government services for its citizens, and create 3,000 jobs in the process. However, that does not concern the main organizers of the campaign. JVP opposes the very right to Jewish right to self-determinationand MPower Change, founded by controversial anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour, frequently smear Israel as an “apartheid state”.

In another suspicious incident on July 31, 2021, American singer Billie Eilish was attacked on social media by irate fans after posting a video in which she uttered the words: “Hello, Israel.” These weren’t real fans or even people at all.

According to the group Creative community for peace (CCFP), Eilish’s Instagram was “flooded with thousands of bot-driven comments consisting of Palestinian flags and other comments with Palestinian solidarity themes.”
CCFP’s research found that hundreds of bots commented on Eilish’s images and received thousands of likes for each comment, although the commenter’s accounts did not even post an image on their own profile.

        Billie Elish - Screenshot for CCFP Research (provided by Dan Levinson) Billie Elish – Screenshot for CCFP Research (provided by Dan Levinson)

A few months earlier, during the May 2021 escalation between Israel and Hamas, hundreds of thousands of Malaysian online activists They were guided by Facebook, Instagram and Telegram groups to send massive spam to Israeli accounts and intimidate them into shutting up. They even managed to block the WhatsApp numbers of Israeli officials using various techniques. The groups instructed their followers to harass, block, hack and shut down Israeli accounts using loopholes in social media platforms that allowed them to create fake reports and fake password recovery processes.

These three cases are part of a concerted effort by activists to create the false impression that speaking up for Israel or simply acknowledging its existence will draw the ire of millions of people around the world.

Just bring the anonymous letter The Guardian.

While some may see writers as a powerful movement within Google and Amazon, the total number of employees at the two companies exceeds 1.4 million. In other words, only about 0.027% of its employees signed the letter that The Guardian published.

Why do campaigns like these happen? Why do anti-Israel activists and organizations, rarely the shy type, express their views openly instead of hiding behind smoke screens and internet trolls?

It’s simple, these activists know that most people are not dominated by anti-Israeli ideals, so they circumvent this obstacle by framing their actions as a grassroots struggle for human rights by concerned citizens.

This phenomenon must be addressed if a genuine civil discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or any other topic, is to flourish on social media. Ensuring that the media and humanitarian organizations carry out due diligence and vetting when reporting on campaigns like these would be a welcome first step.

While that may not prevent these inauthentic campaigns from popping up occasionally, it would do wonders by limiting their effect on audiences.

Dan Levinson is Senior Vice President of Overwhelming force, a digital and cyber forensics company. This opinion piece represents the personal opinion of the writer and is published in association with a coalition of organizations fighting anti-Semitism around the world. Read the previous piece by Abraham Cooper.

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