ER Editor: We also recommend this Jerusalem Post piece titled Facebook Thwarts Israeli Firm’s Efforts to Interfere in Foreign Politics. This of note from RT’s report titled Facebook busts Israeli influence campaign that targeted elections on 3 continents:
Facebook has been much less forthcoming about this particular campaign than some previous mass takedowns, perhaps because the culprits aren’t linked to Russia or Iran, while Facebook regularly cooperates with the Israeli government to have politically inconvenient accounts deleted.
Archimedes’ slogan is oddly reminiscent of another secretive Israeli social media manipulation firm, Psy-Group (motto: “Shape reality”), which closed its doors after coming under scrutiny during the Mueller investigation for its possible involvement in the election of Donald Trump. Psy-Group drew up a detailed prospectus for a Facebook meddling campaign seven months before the 2016 election, but supposedly never deployed it in real life. Both Psy-Group and Archimedes touted their ability to operate multiple fake online avatars simultaneously.
Archimedes is run by Elinadav Heymann, a consultant with Negotiations.CH and a former director of lobbying group European Friends of Israel, a seasoned political operative who appeared embarrassed to have been unmasked by the social network – he reportedly asked the managing director of Negotiations.CH to remove his biography from the site after the story broke. Archimedes’ website now boasts – in the past tense – that “our teams took significant roles in many political and public campaigns, among them presidential elections.”
Facebook uncovers Israeli campaign to disrupt elections worldwide
Facebook has deleted hundreds of accounts, pages and groups run by a private Israeli firm which they maintain published fake news in order to manipulate elections in foreign countries.
The Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying company, the Archimedes Group, boasts about its ability to “change reality” on its website.
According to the tech giant, the company pushed an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries. On its website, Archimedes indeed describes itself as a consulting firm involved in campaigns for presidential elections.
The Associated Press reported that Facebook has since banned the accounts set up for spreading disinformation, deleting 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, four Instagram accounts and dozens of groups.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that Archimedes had spent some $800,000 on fake ads since 2012. After Facebook’s ban on Archimedes, Gleicher would however not speculate about its motives, which “may be commercial or political”.
When Facebook discovered “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” with accounts posing as certain political candidates, smearing opponents and presenting as local news organizations peddling supposedly leaked information, the tech giant decided to act.
Archimedes had focused on Sub-Saharan African countries but also on parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America. The pages have racked up 2.8 million followers and hundreds of thousands of views.
Its slogan reads “winning campaigns worldwide,” and the group promised “mass social media management” software, which it said enabled the operation of an “unlimited” number of online accounts.
The site described its “own unique field within the social media realm” and efforts to “take every advantage available in order to change reality according to our client’s wishes”.
Archimedes‘ chief executive is Elinadav Heymann, according to Swiss negotiations consultancy Negotiations.CH, where he acts as one of the group’s consultants.
Heymann is the former director of the Brussels-based European Friends of Israel lobbying group, a former political adviser in Israel’s parliament and an ex-intelligence agent for the Israeli Air Force.
The allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections are partly based on the fact that a commercial Russian enterprise used fake characters on Facebook to sell advertisement. A review of the themes and ideological positions those fake characters showed that they were not designed to influence the US elections, however.
On Tuesday Russia’s President Vladimir Putin once again rejected US claims that his country interfered in the 2016 elections in the United States after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Sochi to meet with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.