Thousands of fake Israeli profiles were created on Facebook over the last year to voice support for a number of different controversial policies and public figures, a major investigation by Israeli disinformation research firm FakeReporter revealed, as initially reported by Maariv, Walla and NBC.
The profiles voiced support for a number of figures, including Likud MKs Orly Levy-Abecassis and Nir Barkat, Chaim Walder and others.
Many of the profiles are believed to originally be Nepalese in origin, using authentic Israeli names and fake photos to boost up traffic in various groups on the platform, according to Walla.
Many of the profiles in this network were closed after FakeReporter revealed that these fake accounts voiced support for Chaim Walder, an Israeli ultra-Orthodox author who has come under fire following allegations that he raped minors.
Another policy this network has seemingly supported is Barkat’s efforts to prevent the US from reopening a consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians.
Barkat, who lobbied US senators and congressmen in Washington in September against reopening the Jerusalem consulate, has seen his Facebook posts on the matter shared by at least 320 fake accounts.
Some of the posts shared by the network of fake accounts included photos of Barkat with a host of Republican senators such as Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, as well as with Congressman Kevin McCarthy.
The network was seemingly promoted by campaign management company BoostMe that works with businesses to increase their social media presence.
FakeReporter’s investigation revealed all the fake accounts were opened from August 16-22, 2018, used Israeli names and were all following each other’s accounts, perhaps as to appear legitimate.
FakeReporter had already informed Facebook of the network back in July, but only received a reply from the social media giants in August, stating it will investigate the issue.
By the end of August, Facebook had removed 85% of the accounts reported, yet offered no answer as to why it did not take action against the remaining accounts.
Barkat and Levy-Abecassis responded to the report, denying their involvement in the network.
“Suggesting Levy-Abecassis has the ability to control over 100,000 followers is ridiculous,” her statement reads. She went on to claim that a network of synchronized, sponsored fake profiles is targeting her by commenting abuse on her Facebook posts.
“He is not aware and was not involved in any fake profile network,” a statement from Barkat said.
Walder refused to comment on the investigation.