Meta caught an Israeli marketing firm running hundreds of fake Facebook accounts

The accounts targeted America and Canada and posted about the Israel-Hamas war.

TOBIAS SCHWARZ via Getty Images

Meta caught an Israeli marketing firm using fake Facebook accounts to run an influence campaign on its platform, the company said in its latest report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The scheme targeted people in the US and Canada and posted about the Israel-Hamas war.

In all, Meta’s researchers uncovered 510 Facebook accounts, 11 pages, 32 Instagram accounts and one group that were tied to the effort, including fake and previously hacked accounts. The accounts posed as “Jewish students, African Americans and ‘concerned’ citizens” and shared posts that praised Israel’s military actions and criticized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and college protests. They also shared Islamaophobic comments in Canada, saying that “radical Islam poses a threat to liberal values in Canada.”

Meta’s researchers said the campaign was linked to STOIC, a “a political marketing and business intelligence firm” based in Israel, though they didn’t speculate on the motives behind it. STOIC was also active on X and YouTube and ran websites “focused on the Israel-Hamas war and Middle Eastern politics.”

According to Meta, the campaign was discovered before it could build up a large audience and many of the fake accounts were disabled by the company’s automated systems. The accounts reached about 500 followers on Facebook and about 2,000 on Instagram.

The report also notes that the people behind the accounts seemed to use generative AI tools to write many of their comments on the pages of politicians, media organizations and other public figures.“These comments generally linked to the operations’ websites, but they were often met with critical responses from authentic users calling them propaganda,” Meta’s policy director for threat disruption, David Agranovich, said during a briefing with reporters “So far, we have not seen novel Gen AI driven tactics that would impede our ability to disrupt the adversarial networks behind them.”