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Campaign opposing US consulate in Jerusalem boosted by network for fake accounts: reports

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At least 320 fake Facebook accounts are amplifying an Israeli politician’s campaign against reopening the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, according to research from the Israeli disinformation organization FakeReporter, NBC News reported.

FakeReporter’s research, which it shared with NBC News and the Israeli newspaper Maariv, indicated that Israeli politician Nir Barkat’s social media campaign against reopening the consulate in Jerusalem was being amplified by hundreds of fake accounts through likes and shares, according to the network.

“Countries that don’t demand accountability from big tech companies, end up with malicious tactics like these invading the everyday life of their citizens. It’s an attack on the self and the common core of our public conversation, for the benefit of the powerful, and in the process erodes mass democracy,” FakeReporter said in a statement.

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which previously served Palestinians, was closed in 2019 under the Trump administration. The Biden administration has signaled that this consulate will be reopened, though it has been met with GOP opposition.

Among the posts amplified were photos of Barkat with several U.S. Republican lawmakers — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). 

One post said that the Israeli politician had talked about the “danger of establishing a Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem,” which was shared alongside a photo of Cruz and Barkat shaking hands earlier this year at a meeting, NBC News reported. 

“Nir Barkat, who is leading the fight against the opening of an American consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, has no need for such services and has never used fake accounts as the false claim insisted,” Barkat spokesperson Josh Drill said to NBC News, disputing the research.

“Barkat conducts his campaign against the division of Jerusalem through meetings with dozens of senators and members of Congress and expresses his position in the international media, which is viewed by tens of millions of people,” he added.

A spokesperson for Meta, the company that owns Facebook, told NBC News that it had already started addressing the numerous fake accounts on the social media platform but noted that because transactions regarding who may have paid for this were not done over Facebook, it is unclear who was behind the push.

“We removed the majority of these accounts for fake likes and shares. We go after a range of inauthentic activities facing our entire industry — from fake engagement to sophisticated influence operations,” a Meta spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

The Hill has reached out to the Israel’s government and all three lawmakers’ offices for comment.

Updated at 6:12 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Israel Jerusalem Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Palestine Ted Cruz

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