Thursday, 22 Aug 2019 - 21 of Av, 5779

Report: Bot accounts promoting Twitter campaign to boycott Eurovision Song Contest in Israel

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Performers targeted included Madonna, Bilal Hassani (France), Alessandro Mahmoud (Italy), Michael Rice(UK)  and Sarah McTernan (Ireland), as well as participating countries’ broadcast authorities. It is estimated that the tweets had a potential reach of 9.7 million users.

JERUSALEM—Hundreds of fake and bot accounts have been promoting a Twitter campaign calling on artists and others to boycott this month’s Eurovision song contest in Israel, according to a report by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

The report, titled, “The Big Scam- How BDS is Manipulating Social Media against Eurovision 2019,” followed an in-depth examination by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs launched in November 2018.

It revealed data indicating the use of a number of fraudulent methods, including bots and fake accounts using “Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior” to create the appearance of an authentic and widespread campaign, while hoping to manipulate public opinion against artists performing at this year’s Eurovision.

Performers targeted included Madonna, Bilal Hassani, Alessandro Mahmoud, Michael Rice and Sarah McTernan, as well as participating countries’ broadcast authorities. It is estimated that the tweets had a potential reach of 9.7 million users.

The campaign was originally begun under the hashtag #BoycottEurovision2019 by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, an organization operating from Ramallah with close ties with the Palestinian National Islamic Forces, comprised of five terror groups including Hamas, the PFLP and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Two #BoycottEurovision2019 Twitter storms were also discovered to have been organized by an organization called #GroupPalestine.

The report revealed 191 fake accounts took part in the #GroupPalestine Eurovision boycott campaign, 157 of them bots.

It also exposed that the current boycott Eurovision campaign was carried out with the support of Bassem Na’im, a senior official in the terrorist group Hamas who holds the group’s BDS portfolio. Na’im participated in two “Twitter storms”—one in February and another in March—targeting artists participating in Eurovision, which will take place from May 14 to May 18 in Tel Aviv.

#BoycottEurovision2019 is the most recent example of fraudulent methods used against artists planning on performing in Israel. Past cases include a fake-user Twitter campaign launched late last year against the singer Lana Del Rey, in which Twitter bots were found to have partaken in pressuring the artist to cancel her planned visit. Such actions are in line with practices employed by the cultural boycott campaign against artists and cultural figures intending to perform in Israel – which range from exerting indirect pressure to behind-the-scenes physical threats to the individual or his/her family, intimidation and shaming.

“BDS activists are trying every deceptive method to attack Israel, even when dealing with a contest that is supposed to unite people and cultures,” said Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan. “We have now proven that the boycott organizations are not only anti-Semitic and support terror, but lie and fabricate support for their agenda.”

“I am happy that this year’s participants did not surrender to these lies and bigotry and are coming to the Eurovision in Israel,” he continued. “I hope that other artists planning on coming will understand that there is no extensive support for BDS. It’s all just a fake campaign.”

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