Since October 7th, social media networks have become inundated with bots disseminating disinformation and propaganda. A recent report by the Israeli startup, Cyabra, has shed light on the involvement of Iraqi-based organizations in operating some of these bots.
Cyabra's investigation unveiled that 21% of the accounts engaged in discussions on X (formerly Twitter) regarding the U.S.'s role in the conflict with Hamas were fraudulent and part of a meticulously coordinated effort by Iraqi entities. This army of automated bots commenced its campaign of spreading anti-Israeli and anti-American propaganda on the very day of Hamas's incursion into Israel.
Hamas's assault on Israel is aided by a coordinated influence operations campaign involving tens of thousands of fake profiles.— Cyabra (@TheCyabra) October 11, 2023
Cyabra has been analyzing social media conversations to uncover propaganda and fake news regarding the war.
These fraudulent accounts concentrated their efforts on promoting a narrative that depicted the U.S. as a financial and moral supporter of what they referred to as "terror" actions carried out by Israel in the Gaza Strip. They used the hashtag #AmericasponsorsIsraelTerrorism to amplify their message.
Simultaneously, these deceptive accounts voiced their opposition to the proposal to relocate Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip to Egypt or other nations. They also urged Muslims worldwide to rally in support of the Palestinians and work towards liberating Jerusalem from Israeli governance.
Cyabra was able to identify approximately 6,300 interactions, including likes, comments, and shares, with the posts made by these fraudulent accounts. The company estimates that the total views on their content may have reached up to ten million. While the fake accounts began disseminating content related to the conflict as early as October 7th, their activities reached a zenith on October 18th and 19th. Interestingly, the Iraqi bots did not seem to make an effort to conceal their coordinated campaign. Some of these fake accounts followed each other, interacted among themselves, and even posted identical content within minutes of each other.
In many instances, these bots shared quotes and images of Moqtada Al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shiite politician and preacher, indicating a connection to Iraq.
Cyabra's findings suggest that this bot network had been operational as early as June 2023, several months before the outbreak of the conflict in Israel. During this period, the accounts consistently posted identical content simultaneously, with a focus on religious content and information related to Sadr.
Here are another leaflets that the IDF dropped (apparently last night and today) throughout the Gaza Strip:— Israel War Room (@IsraelWarRoom) November 1, 2023
"To the residents of the Gaza Strip: Your time is running out.
The moment of Israeli ground entry into the Strip has come close.
The elimination of the Hamas movement is a… pic.twitter.com/7o1VoQMlNf
Since acquiring Twitter, Elon Musk has made it his mission to combat the proliferation of bots and fake users on the platform. While significant strides have been made in reducing the prevalence of bots on Twitter, isolated cases such as these Iraqi-operated bots can still be encountered.