Dhe mercenaries of disinformation exist all over the planet. But it turns out that the companies on which The world and its partners investigated, Percepto and “Team Jorge”, are Israeli. While their business – influence, vilification and online opinion manipulation – is not a national specialty, these companies still practice it the Israeli way: they are the fruit of an industry fueled by culture and methods of state security organs, from which their founders come.
“Story Killers”, investigation into disinformation mercenaries
For several months, some twenty newsrooms, including that of the Mondeinvestigated, Ouch you consortium Forbidden Stories, on companies specializing in the manipulation of public opinion and the dissemination of false information. As part of this project called “Story Killers”, three journalists from the consortium were able to participate, posing as intermediaries for a potential French client, in several meetings with pharmacies selling tools of influence ” keys in hand “.
This investigation notably made it possible to reveal the existence of “Team Jorge”, a very discreet Israeli company which claims its interference in several dozen elections throughout the world. It offers its customers an arsenal of illegal services, from the hacking of e-mail boxes and private messaging from adversaries to the massive dissemination of influence campaigns thanks to a gigantic network of fake accounts on social networks.
The activities of these agents specializing in the distribution of content derive from those of more traditional private intelligence agencies involved in online intelligence. Like Terrogence, created in 2004, an Israeli pioneer in the infiltration of Internet forums using fake profiles, then Black Cube, founded in 2010, and Psy-Group, launched in 2014 by the same team that will found thereafter Percepto and which crosses, in its time, a threshold by spreading its information using fake accounts and sites. Team Jorge and Percepto also had a competitor that went a little unnoticed, the political communications company Archimedes Group, which was early active in the massive use of misleading pages and fake profiles on Facebook. The platform estimates today, according to the first elements of an internal investigation, that the false profiles of Team Jorge “appear to be an attempt, led by some of these same individuals [liés à Archimedes Group]to return to [ses] platforms after they were banned for violating [leurs] rules “.
“Israeli companies are using these tools and methods from intelligence, from the military, because they can. It’s practical, discreet, it’s not legally regulated. It creates a market. And ends up being associated with the Israeli tech scene, and that’s not a very stellar brand.”laments Achiya Schatz, director of FakeReporter, a group of Israeli activists who observe and denounce disinformation online.
These mercenaries are also neighbors in Israel with companies that sell a reverse service to theirs, by detecting misinformation and false identities online for their customers. Like ActiveFence and Cyabra, created by two veterans of an Israeli military intelligence unit dedicated to “information warfare” within the special operations command, according to their co-founder and director, the Franco-Israeli Dan Brahmy. “The common denominator is the army and intelligence, summarizes the latter. When my associates went private, they had to make a choice: they didn’t want to become news mercenaries; they preferred to do something more positive, knowing that they would perhaps earn five to ten times less money. »
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